Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. Plants are grown by means of an artificial medium such as sand, gravel, mineral wool and other inert material.
The nutrient solution is provided via the irrigation system and it’s essential for the plant to absorb all the necessary nutrients in order to grow properly. There are ton of advantages of hydroponics! We go through them in detail below.
Most hydroponic systems will also feature an automated method of supplying the plants with water and nutrients.
Its no secret that I am big fan of using hydroponics for indoor gardening year round. I honestly cannot go without my herbs and veggies and absolutely love my indoor grow systems.
Not only do they produce for me 365 days a year, but they add beautiful greenery to my little place.
So What Are the Advantages of Hydroponics?
There are many advantages to growing hydroponically, most notably greater control over nutrient intake, faster growth rates due to consistent feeding levels, no soil-born diseases or pests, increased oxygenation of the root zone, greater plant density per square meter and the ability to grow plants in any climate or place.
1. Plant growth is Faster
As compared to growing plants using soil, plant growth is much faster. This is especially true when the grower is new to hydroponics and gardening without soil, as there are no roots to use up nutrients and they get constantly fed the appropriate levels of water and nutrients by means of an automated system which can be controlled.
2. No Heavy Equipment Needed
Since hydroponics involves growing plants without soil, there’s no need for heavy equipment such as shovels and tractors to till the soil and prepare it for planting.
There is also an absence of weeds which could draw away nutrients from the plants so only the intended species will be able to grow in a certain area, making it a clean and tidy method of growing.
3. No Pesticides
Hydroponics makes it possible to grow plants without using pesticides since there is no soil for the roots to absorb them from, therefore pests aren’t attracted to the plants as they would be if they were grown in soil (since many pest species feed on decomposing organic matter such as dead plant material).
4. Feeding Plants is a Breeze
Growing hydroponically provides a consistent feeding schedule for the plants since the grower will always know how much to feed them and they can monitor their plant’s progress closely with ease, whereas soil-grown plants are fed on demand by via manual irrigation methods.
This is important because it makes growing hydroponically possible in places where the climate is too cold for outdoor plant growth during the winter months and it also means you can stop feeding your plants overnight or during weekends.
5. Healthier Roots
Since hydroponics doesn’t involve soil, the root zone of the plants stays oxygenated and healthy since roots left in water tend to rot whereas they would be kept alive if their aerial parts were exposed to air.
6. More Flexibility
Hydroponic gardening provides the grower with more flexibility since they can place their growing trays on rooftops or near windows where there is plenty of sunlight reaching them rather than having to grow indoors using artificial light sources which may not provide enough light for optimal plant growth.
7. Growth is 365 Days a Year Regardless of Zone
It is possible to grow plants hydroponically almost anywhere since it doesn’t require soil to grow crops. This includes places where the climate is too cold or dry, places with high salinity levels in the soil or even on windowsills.
8. No Weeds or Pests with Hydroponics
The lack of soil and the constant exposure to water makes it nearly impossible for weeds to grow in a hydroponic system since they can’t survive without soil and need sunlight to live.
Pests such as snails and slugs will be unable to climb up stalagmites created by their own slime adhesion if your base is covered in a slick, non-stick material such as smooth surface plastic.
If you are using a hydroponics growing tray, use slits instead of holes for your plants to prevent pest invasion.
If you are interested in giving hydroponics a try, there are a number of small hydroponic indoor gardens you can test out. I use the AeroGarden and absolutely love it.
The AeroGarden is a complete herb garden. It’s an indoor gourmet garden with everything you need to grow fresh herbs, salad greens, flowers and more! With less than 4″ of water space at the bottom, it uses as little as 10 watts of power each day – about as much as a night light.
The AeroGarden has been referred to as the “iPhone of Garden Systems.” Every AeroGarden comes equipped with a full spectrum, energy efficient LED light which never needs replacement. The AeroGarden also includes two packets of gourmet herb seeds and detailed growing instructions so you can start growing right away!
This cute little system allows everyone to turn the kitchen into a garden (complete with blue LED lights). With its small footprint (14″ x 9″), it fits easily onto any countertop – even in a small NYC apartment. But don’t let the size fool you, because it packs plenty of power and growth capacity.
The Harvest comes with everything you need to start growing: light, water pump, grow tubes (four pods), seeds (cilantro), nutrient solution, etc.
Veggies and herbs start to grow in as little as 14 days. And for those of you who already experience the joys of growing your own, you will understand how this little guy will come in handy during those winter and cold weather months.
Imagine having fresh herbs and vegetables right at your fingertips year round! And it’s much more economical than buying them from the grocery store or local farmer’s market. Its my little secret for always having organic, fresh herbs and salads year round.
Disadvantages of Hydroponics
The advantages of hydroponics are really extraordinary, however there are some disadvantages that you may also want to take in consideration before making the plunge.
- The nutrient solution needs to be constantly changed because it gets sucked up by the plants so it needs to be constantly replaced. The most common nutrients used in hydroponics are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium which combine into NPK.
- Growing hydroponically is a more complex process involving electricity and/or gas or another method of supplying water and nutrients to the crops. It is also more expensive compared to growing plants using soil since the equipment used to grow hydroponically is more expensive. This method of growing also requires much more maintenance than growing plants in soil.
- The lack of soil means nutrients can’t be stored by the plant so any excess amounts present in the solution will cause problems for the environment where they are disposed into, it will also cause the plants to burn and turn yellow. Therefore it is vital for hydroponic growers to make sure they know how much nutrients their plants need.
- Since there is no soil, bugs such as slugs and snails can harm your plants since they can climb up without getting stuck in soil and will damage the roots through ingestion and/or destruction.
Using soil in a hydroponic system is possible and will allow the use of organic fertilizers but it requires more overall maintenance than growing plants in water or rock wool alone.
Since there is no risk for root rot, watering can be done on demand though the time needed to completely replace the nutrient solution in your growing tray will take longer accordingly.
Why are Ph levels Important with Hydroponics?
One of the biggest problems with hydroponics is that it can turn out to be a very costly method if it isn’t done correctly.
There are several reasons for this but the most common one is not knowing how much fertilizer a plant needs and using too much at once which will cause a toxic build up in the nutrient solution.
Improper feeding comes from both a lack of experience and a lack of knowledge in hydroponics.
The reason it is so important to have an optimal pH for your plants when you are growing hydroponics is because if the levels aren’t right, then certain nutrients will become unavailable to the plant which means the pH needs to be between 5 and 6 (neutral).
When your nutrient solution is too acidic for your plants, they will develop a magnesium deficiency and when it’s too basic (alkaline) the only nutrients readily available to them are nitrogen and phosphorus.
Commercial Hydroponics Systems
There are many types of hydroponics systems that you can buy online or from a local store, but most commercial growers prefer to use deep water culture or N.F.T. systems for their ease of use and high rate of production.
For small scale home growing, the easiest system to learn is top fed DWC because it is easy to manage and maintain.
These systems usually consist of a container filled with clay pellets or rock wool that are then floated on top of the nutrient solution inside large water tubs that are constantly being fed by an electrical submersible pump.
Hydroponics and food production
The biggest benefit of hydroponics is that you can produce food in just about any environment. While it’s not possible to grow vegetables in dry deserts or frozen tundras, pretty much everywhere else will be nearly perfect for growing some kind of food through hydroponics.
This means that the potential market for your crops is practically boundless which is why many commercial scale hydroponics farms are opening up all over the world.
Saving money with hydroponics
Another benefit of hydroponics is that you can save a lot of money since very few supplies are needed to start growing.
A large water tub, the size depends on the amount of plants that you will be growing is the only equipment needed to start a DWC system. Another cool tip is that your plants will grow better with recycled water instead of new.
Since hydroponics can easily produce a lot of food for a small cost it makes it very appealing to countries or people who live in underdeveloped nations.
Growing Hydroponic Cannabis
One of the most common questions asked about growing hydroponics is, “what’s better, hydroponics or soil?” Well, that really depends on the type of grower you are. If you like to plant your seed in soil and watch it grow into a massive plant with large buds then growing hydroponically isn’t for you.
When choosing which hydroponic system works best for growers, it is important to consider the size of your operation.
Most small scale growers start out using NFT or Top-Fed DWC hydroponics systems, both are easy to maintain and have high outputs per plant.Because these systems use a nutrient solution instead of soil, you will need to pay very close attention to pH levels throughout the growth cycle.
Is Hydroponics recommended?
I believe so, yes! Growing hydroponics is definitely worth a try for first time growers. Hydroponics has many benefits that favor first-time hobbyist and commercial growers alike.
It can be a fun and adventurous way to produce your own food inside the comforts of your own home or even create an entirely new business out of it with friends or family.
Hydroponics is a great way to go green and be self-sufficient!