Benefits of Hydroponic Gardening:
Hydroponics is growing ever more popular around the globe, as technologies get better and better and the cost of DIY hydroponic systems comes down so that the average person can get into the game as well. There are several distinct advantages that hydroponics have over conventional gardening in soil. For starters, the rate of growth for a hydroponic plant is roughly 30 to 50 percent faster than growing in soil!
Plants grown in hydroponic systems have also proven to have a much greater yield that soil grown plants under the same conditions. Hydroponic growers believe several reasons can be credited with the substantial differences between these two methods. Hydroponic gardening mediums provide added oxygen to the root systems of the plants, which help to stimulate growth. This extra oxygen also helps the plants absorb their nutrients much faster. These nutrients are absorbed more quickly by the plants because they are mixed into the water. The plant does not have to "search" through the soil to find them.
Hydroponic Gardening Growing Mediums:
In a hydroponic gardening system, the growing medium is used to support and aerate the plant's root system, while channeling water and nutrients to the roots. There are a variety of different growing mediums you can choose from, and different mediums work differently depending on the hydroponic system you are using. For instance expanded shale or Hydroton are both fast draining types of growing mediums, and they work well in ebb and flow systems. Both types are reusable mediums, however shale will break down faster of time and will not last as long.
Rockwool is another popular medium used in hydroponic systems. Rockwool originally was created as a construction grade insulation, however its benefits to the horticultural industry were soon discovered and a product was made just for this purpose. Rockwool is produced from melted limestone and volcanic rock that is spun in a drum like cotton candy, and then pressed into cubed sheets. Rockwool is especially valued in hydroponics because it can hold roughly 10 to 14 times the amount of water as soil, and it retains about 20 percent air, making it compatible with virtually any hydroponic system available.
Hydroponic Gardening Nutrients and pH:
You will find that many of the principles that apply to traditional fertilizers also are applied to hydroponic nutrient solutions. The nutrient solutions will contain everything that plants need to grow and would generally find in the soil. These are often bought through stores that supply hydroponic equipment and most are highly concentrated. You can find them usually in powder or liquid, generally with one for growing and one for blooming. While the liquid versions tend to be a little more expensive, they are also much easier to work with and often come mixed with a pH buffer.
In hydroponic gardening systems, most plants grow well in a range of 5.8 to 6.8 pH, however most will consider a pH of 6.3 ideal. It is much easier to test the pH level in a hydroponic system than that of soil and test kits are readily available at garden centers, hardware stores, and even pet store for aquariums. If the pH is off by too much either high or low, the plant will not absorb the nutrients properly grow poorly. You will commonly use Potash in order to raise pH, or phosphoric acid to lower it.
Hydroponic Gardening Systems:
Hydroponic systems are typically classified one of two ways, either as an active system or a passive one. An active system will move the nutrients to the plant mechanically, usually with a pump. A passive hydroponic system will use the capillary action of a wick, or the growing medium itself to move the nutrients to the plant. Passive systems are considered the less effective way to grow plants hydroponically because they keep the medium too wet, hindering the absorption of oxygen.
An active hydroponic system is often called an ebb and flow system. The nutrient solution is stored in the bottom reservoir of the system with a submersible pump and the plant is grown in an upper tray suspended above the reservoir. When the pump is turned on, the upper tray and plant go through a flood cycle where the water and nutrients are pumped to the plant for absorption.
Passive hydroponic gardening systems are often called wick or non-recovery systems, and have no moving parts. The nutrient solution is moved up to the plant's root system through capillary action using either a lantern or candle wick. These systems, because of their simplistic design are far cheaper than ebb and flow systems and are often used by beginners looking to get started in hydroponics.
Build You Own Hydroponic Gardening System:
One of the most common questions that many beginners ask is should they go out and buy a system or should they build their own. Most experienced hydroponic growers will suggest that if you have never grown this way before, start off by buying an inexpensive system first before attempting to build your own. Experience is the best teacher in life and purchasing an inexpensive system to get started will let you get some experience working with hydroponics.
The experience alone is worth more than the price of the system and after you have a working knowledge you can start building your own hydroponics system. Once you are ready to build your own, take the time and do your homework first. There is a wealth of information at your fingertips that you can pull from to make the right decisions on what type of system to build. Hydroponics is a wave that is sweeping across the globe. It is exciting and fun and extremely easy to get started.
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