The Nuts And Bolts Of Hydroponics
Just what in the world is hydroponics! Hydroponics according to Wikipedia is a subset of hydroculture, which is a method of growing plants without soil by using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. Indeed it is for the most part growing crops without the use of soil! Yes, we use the nutrients needed by plants to thrive, provide the proper environment for the plants and bingo, we have a hydroponics system!
Or it could be growing veggies on your walls! Your imagination is the limit! The kit below is available in Amazon! Just click the picture below!
Basic Hydroponics Components
At its most basic form, a hydroponics system could be a jar or a bucket filled with the proper nutrient and a plant or two growing in it. No soil, just the right nutrient for growth. Now, as you will wish to expand your operation from a jar, we can expand the system so we build or buy a grow bed!
A grow bed is a platform usually raised to a certain level that is filled with a grow medium, then we add a nutrient-circulating system to it so the nutrient is distributed properly to all the plants. This is accomplished with the use of water pumps, some pipes , fluid containers, filters etc.
The picture below shows a complete hydroponics system kit for Indoor Tomatoes, Peppers, Melons etc! Available from Amazon.com!
Some hydroponics growers like to add water aerators or oxygenators to the system adding oxygen to the nutrients improving plant growth and quality. In systems where fish in tanks are used to supply parts of the nutrient, the issue of aeration is already part of the fish tank in such a way that the nutrient reaching the plants are already oxygenated. Below are two products to choose from.
Grow Mediums Vary
Seedlings are first grown in very small grow mediums such as coconut husks shaped to handle the tiny plants or starter plugs. These individual seedlings are then nicely fitted into sheets of foam which are floating on the nutrient solution in a grow bed. As the nutrients are circulated throughout the whole grow bed, they are efficiently distributed and the plant growth is evenly achieved.
Others use pea gravel that is spread out on a grow bed. The same coconut husk medium for the seedlings could be used. The grow bed serves to hold the plants in place and also retain some of the nutrients.
Specially cut pvc pipes are also very effective as grow platforms for hydroponics. Available at Amazon.com by clicking the photo below!
Starter Trays And Starter Plugs!
Now starter trays serve to hold the starter plugs which are your grow medium for your seedlings! As your small seedlings will not be growing in soil, the starter plugs which are made out of rockwool material provide the medium for the roots to grow into. Trays and grow plugs are available at Amazon by clicking the photos or links below !
Hydroponics Artificial Lighting!
As mentioned above, hydroponics systems could be set up in enclosed spaces as basements! So we will have to use artificial lighting to make sure that the plants will get its necessary ‘sunshine’ through artificial lighting! The lighting below uses Light Emitting Diodes or LEDs. They are economical in its usage of electricity as compared to the old halogens.
Compost Tea Or Hydroponics Nutrients!
Now this tea is one of those that we do not want to drink! Leave them for our plants to drink! And for sure compost tea as the name implies are made out of compost material. Old rotten stuff like old leaves etc. Even cow dung that has dried up are placed in burlap sacks soaked in barrels of water and they become your hydroponics nutrient called compost tea! To make it easier, commercial nutrients such as the one shown below are available as well!
Control And Monitoring Of Nutrient Content
Control and monitoring of nutrient content is a great step to include in hydroponics systems. This helps maximize the application of plant nutrient necessary for the best growth and yield of crops. Monitoring soil nutrients however are a lot more troublesome.
Bluelab Combo Meter Plus – Handheld Digital Hydroponic Nutrient and pH Meter for Measuring pH Levels, Conductivity & Temperature in Soil & Plants
Advantages of Hydroponics
Space for one is a great advantage. We can grow crops even in extremely limited space using hydroponics. In apartments, back or front patios, small backyards, rooftops, basements and walls as shown above…the possibilities are endless!
No Weeding Necessary
One of the major headaches encountered by growers using soil for its grow medium are weeds. The weeds compete for space and nutrients with our plants. These pesky headaches are totally eliminated in using hydroponics. No weeds to eliminate means less work and less expense. Weed killers are expensive!
Bugs Are Kicked Out As Well
Now, bugs and weeds go together! With no weeds involved in the system, the incidence of bugs is greatly reduced. Remember most of these bugs attack or eat our plants.
Do not forget that most hydroponics are built indoors or inside greenhouse structures. Bugs are effectively screened out in the process.
Easy And Clean Harvests
The roots of hydroponics plants are immersed in water and nutrient solutions. Soil-based plants have roots that have dirt or soil on them! More work of cleaning up during harvest is eliminated! And mind you these small advantages add up into big advantages!
Ease Of Operation Is Another Advantage
Now comparing the standard way of growing plants using soil as compared to using hydroponics, I find it easier to run hydroponics systems than soil-based grow mediums.
Hydroponics-Grown Crops Are Definitely Organic
Compost are easily turned into nutrients. Non-chemical or organic nutrients could be had using any kind of natural compost as leaves, grass, other materials that decompose. So this is another advantage for the use of hydroponics. We can grow food that are chemicals free!
Year-Round Production Advantage!
I would like to point this out as one of the top advantages of hydroponics systems. My research shows you can grow tropical plants or veggies in the middle of winter! Just make sure that your greenhouse has been designed and built to handle the extreme cold! But it has been done and being done!
If you can grow crops in basements you can grow crops underground, inside caves using hydroponics! And that is not something that is easily doable using soil to grow things in!
Some Disadvantages, Initial Expense Etc
Establishing a hydroponics operation is expensive, at least as compared to growing plants in soil! The grow bed, the pump and pipes, the greenhouse and the nutrient will cost an operator initially. But no pains, no glory! All things that are excellent, come with a price!
To run the water circulating pump could add a few more bucks to your expense list. But these pumps are truly small fractional horse power motors and their electrical consumption are tiny.
Return Of Investment!
The biggest ROI in my opinion is the joy and happiness with what you do in hydroponics! The whole process of setting up the system, growing your first crop of veggies, then just watching them grow is the best Return of Investment for a lot of us. The harvest of food and some income is next to my ranking of benefit and ROI!
A quick research on the profitability of hydroponics is all over Google! Big farms have built huge greenhouses and producing crops using hydroponics! Indeed it looks like hydroponics is a winner in producing food no matter where we are in the world!