Hydroponics is a method of gardening without using soil. Hydroponic gardening can be done indoors or outdoors and uses water as the main source of nutrition for the plants, with shelter being used to protect them from the weather.
For those who are interested but have never tried hydroponics, the first step is to get an understanding of what is involved. Some essential points are:
Planning is essential
Hydroponic gardening requires consideration of the science of plant nutrition. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other micronutrients are needed in different amounts and formulas for making up solutions that contain these nutrients should be calculated before building the system. If you have little experience working with chemicals then you may want to find someone who can do this for you or buy kits that are already assembled.
There are many different types of systems.
Different systems for different purposes. There are two main types of systems, pot and free-standing systems.
The free-standing system is used in small gardens for crops like tomatoes or cucumbers which grow in a straight line. There is no need for support at the other end so the plants can be hung by their stems.
It is also possible to make shelves that contain most of the water and allow taller plants to be grown vertically on them; this requires special care by maintaining the water level in the tray and removing all splashbacks to make sure there is contact between fertilizer and roots which could lead to burning or rotting of roots.
The pot system is used for crops that require a more complex watering regime like lettuce or herbs; these are also ideal for growing in windowsills, on balconies and outdoor in the regions with warm weather.
Gardens can be put up right away
It is possible to get started right away. There is no need to wait for seeds to germinate or grow.
Plants can be bought at your local garden centre and while they are growing you can start building your system.
For a small system you can use an outdoor or indoor pot but for more complex systems beginning with the free-standing system and then moving to a larger tray may be needed. The biggest pots are called troughs and come in square, rectangular, round, oval and rectangle shapes. They need drainage holes to stop water getting trapped in them.
Putting everything together
Watering containers are essential to supplies suitable for hydroponics gardening. This means that a reservoir is needed to supply water to the growing containers. There are many different types of reservoirs; they include:
· Granular polyurethane: This is the most common type and is relatively cheap. While it is not completely leak proof it does last a long time; therefore, it can work out cheaper in the long run.
· EPDM/Viton: This type of material has a longer lifespan than polyurethane and can withstand harsher chemicals while still working effectively for supplying water to the plants. Some of the fittings used with this material are made specifically for hydroponics use.
· Rubber/Gardex: This type of material is more resistant to chemicals than polyurethane or EPDM but it is also more expensive.
· Polyethylene: This material is slightly less resistant to chemicals and it can be a little cheaper than the other materials.
The next important things to look at are different containers, such as jars, buckets, bottles, plastic trays and tanks that can help you with your system. There are different sizes and shapes of containers that you have to consider when choosing the correct one for your system.
The last factor to consider is the plumbing which can involve pipes and fittings that are used to connect everything together. There are many different types of hydroponic plumbing but all of them need some sort of piping to connect the reservoir to the growing containers.
If you are using a bucket you will need a container which allows you to add water without getting it on the floor or having to tip it over. The air pump, tubing, sprayer and the fertilizer injector should also be included in your resources for your system if they have not been included with your system already; they can be easily found online or from local suppliers.
Where Do I Get a Hydroponics System?
There are many different places that sell hydroponic systems such as garden centers, nurseries, and websites. It can be best to ask the staff at the shop if you are not sure whether a particular product is suited for hydroponics because they usually know more about it than a website owner would. They will also be able to help with any questions that you have about how to set up the system once you have bought it.
What nutrients do I need?
There are two main types which include a liquid and a powder. The powder contains everything that the roots need to grow and in the liquid version there is a little bit of each nutrient type.
The concentration of each nutrient is different for each type and usually there will be different amounts. You should see what is recommended on the packaging for your product. There are many websites that list recommended doses for nutrients so you could look these up if you need more information on them, too.
What additives do I need?
This is another important factor to consider when deciding whether or not to buy the product that you want because it may have other ingredients, too, which can affect the quality of your growing system. Some products may have citric acid, for example, and others may contain different types of preservatives. These could have harmful effects on your plants if the levels are too high so make sure that you check what is included.
What do I need for Hydroponics nutrients?
There are two main things that you will need to consider; some products come with all of them and others do not. The first thing is a measuring device such as a syringe because it allows you to accurately measure out the correct amount of nutrient liquids that you will need for your system.
When you are working out how much liquid to use, you need to be careful not to over-dilute it in the reservoir because this can make the nutrients less effective for your system, so it might be best to only add a small amount at a time. The other thing that you will need is some sort of reservoir or tank that will hold enough water for your hydroponics system.
What about lighting?
The last important factor that you need to consider is the lighting system and how it will work with your hydroponics system. There are different types of lights that can be used, which can be either cool white (CW) or warm white (WW). The CW lights are usually a little bit brighter than the WW lights, which can help to give your plants more energy and will also make them grow faster.
With all of these different types of hydroponics nutrients available, there is one type that is very popular that you might want to consider; the 3-part nutrient systems.
These tend to be very straightforward and easy to use because it only has three ingredients instead of a lot more. Many people use this as their first time trying out hydroponic growing because they are unsure about how to work out what nutrients they need for their system, so they will initially find it easier to start with something like this.
Can I set up a hydroponics system outdoors?
Yes, you can set up a hydroponics system outdoors, however, it is recommended that you make sure it is covered or sheltered in some way so that the sunlight cannot get to the plants as this could cause them to burn. You will need to check out how much UV light is in the area as this will be very important for your hydroponic system.
What should I know about backup systems?
It would be a good idea to have some sort of backup system for your hydroponics growing if you are going to use something like an aquarium where you are manually pumping in the water. If you have a power cut, the aquarium will run out of water and your plants are going to get very unhappy very quickly.
You can buy pumps that are battery powered or ones that are off-grid. If you do get a power cut, then the pump will switch on automatically once it detects the power has been restored.
How much electricity do I need with a hydroponic system?
There is not actually that much electricity required for your hydroponic building project, as most systems keep things nice and simple.
The most common way to do this is to just use an aquarium pump to pump the water in and out of the tank. It is recommended that you use an aquarium pump as it is designed specifically for this use. More expensive pumps are able to increase the water flow, but they will cost a bit more and are not really needed for the average person.
There is nothing wrong with using cheaper pumps, but be sure to limit how often you run your system since these pumps have a tendency to develop leaks or take longer to run on lower volumes of water than larger sizes.
Once the pump has been set up and connected properly, then you can begin adding your plants and making sure things remain functioning.