The Basics of Hydroponic Gardening
Hydroponic gardening is simply growing plants without soil. Instead of soil, the roots sit in a medium that has no nutrients or minerals, and a mixture of nutrient rich water and oxygen is put directly on the roots. There are several different setups for hydroponic gardening, but they all work on the principal of feeding nutrients onto the roots. Depending on what kind of plants are being grown, the medium that hold the roots can hold more or less water, change the ph, or the roots can be suspended in the water.
All hydroponic systems are active or passive. In passive hydroponic systems, a wick is used to get the nutrient solution to the roots. It is the simplest system, and works best with plants that can tolerate having their roots very moist all the time. Active hydroponic systems move the nutrient solutions to the roots, typically with some kind of pump. Active hydroponic systems can be recovery or non-recovery systems. As their names suggest recovery systems recover and reuse nutrients sent to the plants, and non-recovery systems only use nutrients once.
Advantages of Hydroponic Gardening
Hydroponic gardening offers several unique advantages, the most obvious being that no dirt is involved. Because nutrients are applied directly to the roots, the root systems are much smaller than that of plants grown in soil. Since plants can easily get all the nutrients they need, and they do not use much energy on root growth, the rest of the plant grows very quickly and, in many cases, mature faster than they would in soil. Also, because nutrients are readily available, you can grow a many more plants in a small area.
Another advantage of hydroponic gardening is complete control of nutrients throughout the life cycle. Certain plants need vastly different nutrients at different points in their development, such as the first thirty days after germination versus full maturity, and this can be kept under control with hydroponic gardening.
Currently, there are several different setups for hydroponic gardening that are designed to work with different types of plants depending on how much water they prefer and what kind of nutrients they require. Most of the setups are active systems, which are typically the most effective and produce better plants than passive systems or plants grown soil.
With erosion continuing to be a major problem, as well as the increasing cost of property, commercial farmers may soon turn to hydroponic gardening. If they could replicate the effects of small hydroponic systems on a massive scale, they may be able to run their businesses more efficiently and produce healthier crops.