When you think about plants, you would naturally think about them growing in soil. However, an alternative is a hydroponics and there’s a reason it is steadily increasing in popularity.
What is hydroponics: In essence, hydroponics is all about growing plants, but without soil. It uses water to feed plants nutrients and you can control the amount of light your plants receive. With a hydroponics setup, you can grow crops year-round and even have access to crops that normally wouldn’t grow in your area. While the setup is costly, as you need to build a structure, set up growing trays, connect water, and set up lights, your yield will be larger than a traditional garden will allow. There is also less fuss as there is no weeding to be done and you don’t have to worry about pests eating your hard work.
How does hydroponics work?
Instead of using soil to house plants, hydroponics works differently. It uses a mineral nutrient solution that is concentrated and feeds plants.
Hydroponically-grown plants often have their roots in water and are in a greenhouse so that you can control the temperature and amount of light they get.
What do you need for hydroponics?
All plants require nutrients, whether you are growing them in soil or through hydroponic methods. There are different nutrient systems you can choose from, and usually different stages of your plants will require different methods.
You can look for chemical fertilizers or even artificial nutrients, or you can use organic matter, such as duck manure or even fish excrement.
Hydroponics relies on water, and you will need plenty of freshwaters. For best results, you can even use distilled water, so that there is no organic matter in the water.
You will need to create a water setup so that you can easily fill your containers with fresh water and then drain it as need be.
Even though your plants aren’t growing in soil, they do need some sort of substance to keep them together. There are many options you can choose from for your hydroponics setup.
Gravel or perlite are both good choices for root support, and you may want to have different supports for the different crops you are growing.
One of the perks of hydroponics is that you get to control how much light your plants get. However, you also need to ensure you have lots of light to do this.
The good news is that there are very efficient lighting systems now that don’t use up as much energy as previous systems did, which means your electricity bill won’t be as expensive.
Benefits of growing plants without soil
Growing plants is not an efficient method. While it has existed for centuries, there is a better way to grow plants, and that is hydroponics.
Traditional farming includes a lot of soil, a lot of water, and a lot of extra plants. However, with hydroponics, everything is controlled so there is no waste.
You can decide exactly how much water is needed, and because the water stays in a container, there is no wastage of it as it seeps into the ground. The same is true with the plants themselves; there is no need to worry about losing crops to pests or diseases.
Finally, you don’t need any soil and while you do need a nutrient solution, this goes directly to the plants.
Grow Anywhere and Anytime
All plants have different needs and it can be frustrating when you want certain plants but your climate just won’t support it. With hydroponics, you control the temperature of the growing area as well as how much light there is.
There’s no need to worry about summers that are too hot or winters that are too cold, as everything is under your control.
Furthermore, you don’t have to worry about traditional growing seasons that rely on temperature and sunlight. You can simply set up your lights to have full sun, even in the middle of the winter.
Perhaps the most frustrating part about gardening is weeding. No matter how you try, those unwanted weeds will pop up and you have to pull them, all while trying not to disturb the plants you do want.
Hydroponics is a controlled area and you, therefore, don’t have to worry about weeds. Simply set up your plants.
Plants are susceptible to a lot of unwanted nuisances. However, in a controlled area like hydroponics, there is no need to worry about pests or diseases.
Instead, your plants can grow to their full potential. You can monitor them and adjust light, temperature, and nutrients, to get the largest possible yield.
What are the disadvantages of hydroponics?
Setting up a hydroponics system is quite expensive. You will need to build a place to house your plants, and this needs to be large enough to walk in and have multiple layers of plants.
You will also need to purchase trays, a lighting system, and plenty of pipes for your water system. While your costs will decrease in subsequent years, be prepared to pay a lot of money upfront.
Electricity is also a cost to factor in, as you will want to run your lights at least eight hours a day, if not more. Depending on where you live, your electricity bill can be pretty expensive.
Where you build your hydroponics area is dependent on access to water and electricity. Unless you want to increase your costs, you may not have a lot of choices on where it will be.
Power outage problems
Those wanting to invest in a large-scale hydroponics setup will do well to have a backup generator. While your plants can withstand a small power outage, if the power doesn’t come on right away, your plants will greatly suffer.
Hydroponics is all about controlling the environment in which you grow crops. By controlling the light, water, and nutrients your plants receive, you can create the optimal environment for healthy, robust vegetables.