What is hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a farming method that does not make use of soil to grow crops. Instead, plants are kept in water with materials such as perlite, peat moss, coconut fiber, or rock wool to anchor your plant’s roots. The purpose of hydroponic farming is to efficiently deliver water and nutrients to your plants without requiring any soil. Hydroponic gardening systems require fewer resources compared to growing crops in soil using the traditional method. The following are the main components that you need for hydroponic gardening:
- Root support
If you are unsure about where to begin your hydroponic gardening journey, then look no further! TOLLA offers seed kits to help you embrace hydroculture gardening practices!
Why is hydroponic gardening better than soil gardening?
Plants grown in hydroponic systems mature 25% percent quicker compared to the growth rate of the same crop grown in soil. Additionally, most of them are also able to enjoy a better yield and richer harvest. With hydroponic farming and gardening, plants have to spend less time and energy developing fast-growing root systems to search for water and nutrients. Instead, hydroponic systems allow your crop to focus on growing upward and process raw materials better to deliver them to the leaves and flowers of your plant, where they are needed most. Hydroponic gardening is also more resource-efficient as it requires ten times less water compared to plants grown in soil.
Can I grow hydroponically outdoors?
Yes, you can grow your crop hydroponically outdoors. Building your hydroponic system outdoors will help your plants use sunlight more efficiently to grow into healthy adult plants. You will also be able to save money because you will not have to buy grow lights. However, growing plants hydroponically outdoors comes with risks of its own. Your plants will be exposed to external environmental aspects such as unpredictable weather spells, pests and bugs, temperature fluctuations, and excessive rain which can dilute your nutrient solution. It is recommended that you carefully assess the climatic zone you are living in before deciding whether or not it is a good idea to grow your plants hydroponically outdoors.
Can I grow organically with hydroponics?
Granting the label of ‘organically grown’ to hydroponic crops has long been a controversial topic. Traditional farmers believe that the basis of organic farming is the use of healthy and living soil. However, it is possible to incorporate organic farming techniques in your hydroponics system. Note that it is challenging as it involves the use of water-insoluble nutrients, beneficial microbes, and a variety of sugars that can end up clogging your tanks and pumps. In the United States, organic certification has been extended to certain hydroponic crops.
Confused about how to grow your plants hydroponically? Check out the TOLLA Technaflora Recipe for Success which is a successful starter kit to help you begin growing your plants!
Are all types of plants suitable for hydroponic gardening?
Technically, you should be able to grow any plant hydroponically given that you can balance its nutrients, sunlight, water, and air intake. You also need to take into account the following:
- What kind of hydroponic system do you have?
- How much space do you have available?
- How experienced are you with growing plants hydroponically?
Your answers to these questions will be a reasonable determinant of whether or not you can grow a particular plant hydroponically. Farmers have been able to grow entire fruit and nut trees using hydroponic systems. So don’t worry, the sky is the limit as long as you are willing to learn more! Some of the easiest plants to grow hydroponically are lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, kale, beans, herbs, and cucumbers.
Can I grow different plants in the same hydroponic system?
While it is possible to grow different plants in the same hydroponic system, it can be challenging balancing the nutrient availability for all your plants. It is recommended that you practice mono-crop hydroponic growing culture where plants with similar nutrient requirements are being grown together. For example, you can grow leafy vegetables such as lettuce and kale in one hydroponic system and flowering plants in another hydroponic system. Just note that the greater the variety of plants and their nutrient requirements in a hydroponic system, the trickier it will be for all of them to grow into healthy adult plants.
How does hydroponic produce taste compared to soil-grown produce?
Nutrient density is the key component that influences the taste and flavor of the crop that you grow. Plants grown in different soil types will grow to produce fruits, vegetables, and herbs that taste different from each other and hydroponics is no different. Taste is not a crop characteristic that is inherent to soil farming and not hydroculture. Fortunately, hydroponic farmers can micromanage the taste of their crops by injecting nutrients as required by the plant. Please note that taste is subjective, and some people enjoy the taste of hydroponic crops and others prefer soil-grown crops. It is all a matter of preference!
What is a reliable yet inexpensive hydroponic system for beginners?
The Deep Water Culture (DWC) hydro system is one of the simplest yet most efficient hydroponic systems for beginners to get started with hydroponic gardening. You need to fill up a reservoir with a nutrient solution (macro and micronutrients dissolved in water). The roots of your plants will be suspended in the water reservoir. This hydro system has an air pump which helps inject a continuous supply of oxygen to help your plant’s roots breathe. For light, you can use grow lights. The DWC hydro system is easy to set up on your own. You can do it for under $25 in less than an hour!
What size light should I purchase?
Plants growing in your hydroponic system need at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. You can set up your hydroponic system outdoors where they can get direct sunlight, but if you have decided to practice hydroculture indoors, then you will need to purchase an artificial grow light. It is recommended that you purchase hydroponic bulbs between 400 – 600 watt or high-intensity discharge (HID) lights for each 4’ x 4’ space in your hydroponic garden. For high-yield plants such as tomatoes and peppers, you will need to use the 600-watt lights as these are incredibly sun-loving crops.
Can I interchange the bulb between systems?
No. It is severely discouraged to interchange lights between different hydroponic systems. If you are wondering if it is safe to use a 400-watt bulb in a 600-watt system, then the answer is no. It is unsafe to do so because an electrical power imbalance can cause your bulb to explode and put you and your hydroponic garden in danger. Apart from meeting power requirements, you should also be careful not to put halide bulbs in a high-pressure sodium system. Follow the instructions on the packaging of your bulbs. There is no choice but to use bulbs with an appropriate rating for your hydroponic system. Don’t risk it!
How often should I change my nutrient solution?
The nutrient solution for your hydroponic system should be changed every two to three weeks. However, you need to keep monitoring the nutrient density and pH levels of your nutrient solution to ensure that it is appropriate to your plant’s liking. If your water reservoir has a larger surface area, then water will evaporate off its surface quicker. Such hydroponic systems will need their water supply and nutrient solution to be replenished frequently. Smaller reservoirs need to be topped with water more often than larger water reservoirs. If you are just starting, then you will have to test the waters before you develop a routine for changing your hydroponic system’s nutrient solution.
Can I transfer plants from soil to hydroponics?
Yes. One of the simplest ways to begin using a hydroponic system is to start with seeds grown in soil. Once the seedlings are 3 – 4 inches tall, they are ready to be shifted to your hydroponic system. To do this, you will need to carefully loosen the soil trapped around the roots of your plant and unearth it. Be sure to get rid of as much dirt as possible, else you will have to change your water supply several times. Move your bare-root seedlings to your hydroponic growing medium and take care of them as you normally would.
What is the difference between Aeroponics and Aero-Hydroponics?
Aeroponics is an alternative gardening style where plants are not supplied with water or air while they are being grown. They are exposed to the air and they get their nutrients from mists that are sprayed onto their roots several times a day. Aeroponic plants grow without ever being exposed to water. Meanwhile, aero-hydroponics involves the use of nutrients and water mixed and sprayed onto the roots of your plant. There isn’t much variety when it comes to aeroponics and aero-hydroponics as compared to hydroponic systems.
What carbon dioxide system is right for me?
Carbon dioxide plays a critical role in helping plants perform their chemical processes and form organic compounds. By increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in your hydroponic system’s environment, you will be able to speed up the process of photosynthesis. This autopilot CO2 monitor and controller is a reasonably priced device that will let you monitor the levels of carbon dioxide in your hydroponic system and optimize it according to your plant’s requirements. You will be able to precisely control the carbon dioxide concentration of your hydroponic system by the hour.
How can I tell if my seeds are viable?
You need to invest your hydroponic gardening efforts in plants that will germinate successfully. To find out whether or not your crop seeds are viable, you need to conduct a simple test. Pour a glass of water and sprinkle your seeds in it. Let them sit for 15 – 20 minutes. If the seeds sink, it means that they are viable and will be able to germinate successfully. If they remain floating at the top of your glass of water, it is incredibly unlikely that these seeds will germinate successfully. Discard the seeds that do not sink to avoid getting confused.