From the discovery of fire, mankind made their place as the supreme being ever to walk on the face of the earth. Throughout history, they made many discoveries that helped them to survive and dominate over other creatures.
Some were destructive, just to gain control over the earth. But soon, mankind realized the necessity of preserving the earth. Because if there is no earth, there will no longer be a human to live. Thus modern science is working on maintaining the earth’s balance. They found ways and means to sustain this balance of nature. Hydroponics is one of them.
Although many think that the concept of hydroponics is new, it is not entirely so. Hydroponics is a fairly old method of growing trees without soil. Yes, soil is no longer needed to develop a tree.
In this article, we focus on discussing how a tree can grow without soil and hydroponics gardening methods. Soon, mankind may find a way to travel beyond this planet and a new home, and like the movie, ‘The Martian’ soil like earth may not be found in that new home. To make that world habitable, hydroponics might just be the way. also to make this world a more environment friendly home.
- How Does Hydroponics Gardening Work?
- Why Hydroponics
- Advantages and Disadvantages of Hydroponics Gardens
How Does Hydroponics Gardening Work?
The idea of hydroponics gardening is simply to grow plants without soil. Basically, hydroponics is a part of Hydroculture. So the question is, how can a tree stand without soil? The answer is mineral nutrient solutions. Soil is a kind of mineral nutrient solution itself. So why not replace it with another nutrient solution and see if it works! Well, it did. Although soil was replaced by other solutions, the same does not go for water; it is imperative.
Hydroponic drip system; epicgardening.com
The terrestrial plants expose their roots inside the soil, to stand, and to gain nutrients. The area of soil inside which roots penetrate is called rhizosphere. The rhizosphere is a certain level of PH. Half of the work is done if the nutrient solutions that want to replace the soil have the same PH level. The rest depends on the species of the plant. Usually, some inert medium is required to maintain the nutrients, such as perlite (a specific volcanic glass that contains extra molecules of water) and gravels (rock fragments). Nutrient solutions also require manure, such as fish excrement, duck manure (organic sources), and other synthetic manures. Researchers have successfully grown a few generations of different kinds of plants, such as tomatoes, papers, onions, lettuce, marijuana, etc. The main benefit of hydroponics gardening is that it requires much less water to grow a plant than a conventional soil system.
History of Hydroponics Gardening
As mentioned earlier, hydroponics is not a new concept. The first idea of growing plants without soil was given by a famous biologist Francis Bacon. His book ‘A Natural History’ published in 1627 mentioned that growing plants without soil could be a real deal. This started other scientists to look at the matter. Later latter history is described briefly below:
1699: John Woodward published his works on spearmint based on water culture. He said with less pure water; plants grow better.
1842: List of nine essential elements for plants were discovered by germen botanists Julius von Sachs and Wilhelm Knop.
1875: Some development in techniques in soilless cultures. Nutrient solutions were discovered.
1929: William Fredrick Gericke started promoting solution culture for agricultural purposes. He is the first person to call this method ‘Aquaculture’. Later he renamed it ‘Hydroponics’.
William Fredrick Gericke; medium.com
1930: Hydroponics gardening was used to grow vegetables in Wake Island.
1398: Inspired by Gericke’s work, Dennis Robert Hoagland and Daniel Israel Arnon published ‘The Water Culture Method for Growing Plants Without Soil’ which claimed that hydroponic corps were no better than soil crops.
1940: Gericke published ‘A Complete Guide for Soilless Gardening after leaving university job.
1960: Nutrient film technique was introduced by Allen Cooper in England, which was demonstrated in Walt Disney World’s EPCOT in 1982.
2000s: NASA developed Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems (CELSS), where hydroponics is practiced in a system similar to the Martian atmosphere.
2007: More than 200 million pounds of tomatoes were sold Eurofresh Farms grown hydroponically.
Present day: The global hydroponics market is going towards the growth of 724 million dollars by 2023.
Types of Hydroponics
Types of hydroponics mean the techniques of hydroponics gardening. Several hydroponics gardening techniques are available today. Each has its perks. Let us briefly discuss them.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
Nutrient film technique is the latest technique for hydroponics. In this technique, plant nutrient solutions are pumped from a stock cabin into channels that usually hold different plants.
The channels are sloped to maintain a steady flow of nutrient solutions for the plants. This technique is ideal for plants with small root systems. It is one of the most used techniques in hydroponics gardening.
Deep Water Culture (DWC)
In this technique, plants are drowned to their roots in the nutrient solution. The bucket that contains the plants and solution is called the ‘Bubble Bucket’. Usually, plastic is preferable when making a bubble bucket. This system works better with large size plants because the plants get a strong base.
This the simplest technique used for hydroponics gardening because it does not use any electricity, pump, or aerators.
This is the only passive hydroponics technique because it uses no electricity. In this system, plants gain nutrition through ‘wick’ systems, where thin nylon threads are attached to plants roots.
The base of the plants is covered with coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, etc. despite being the only passive system, the wick system lacks efficiency. It is only used herbs like plants.
Ebb and Flow Systems
The Ebb and Flow system is also a flood and drain system. This is a very popular technique for home hydroponics gardening.
In this system, plats are placed in large nutrient bed which contains grow medium. The bed is flooded with nutrient solutions until a certain threshold point.
If the solution exceeds the threshold point, a drainage system automatically lowers the level. This is controlled by a time-controlled pump.
A more efficient variant of this system does not even require pumps. Instead, it uses valves to maintain the solution level.
This technique is excellent for almost any plant that can be grown in a hydroponic garden, including vegetables. But it captures more area than other systems.
Ebb and flow hydroponic system; researchgate.net
This is a mobile system because it is easy to set up, use, and can withstand frequent changes.
This system allows a direct flow of nutrient solutions to the base of the plants. Drip emitters are attached to plant bases that control and adjust the flow to saturate the growing medium.
There are two variants available in these systems, circulating flow and non-circulating flow. This system is excellent for growing almost any plant.
Aeroponics is a complicated system to build, but the concept is very simple. Here the plants are hanging in the air, and nutrient solutions are sprayed onto their roots.
The solutions are pumped towards mist novels that sprays the solution as mist. The rest of the solution falls back in the bubble bucket.
The system is similar to the DWC system but uses air as a growing medium instead of pebbles and perlites. The smaller the mist spray is, the more a plant can absorb them.
Mediums for Hydroponics Gardening
It is true that trees no longer need soil to grow, but they need a medium to absorb the nutrient solution. In this section, we will upholdsome popular mediums used in hydroponics.
Expanded Clay Aggregate
This medium is baked clay at around 1200 degrees Celsius or almost 2200 degrees of Fahrenheit. Then they are shaped to pallets, which are pH neutral and contains no nutrient value.
Growstones are pebble-shaped, made from glass waste. They can sustain more air and water than perlites and peats. It is made of calcium carbonate and soda-lime glass.
Coconut coir is a natural byproduct of coconut. This coir absorbs a high level of nutrients in its life cycle. So they must undergo a neutralization process to be used as a medium.
Parboiled rice husks (PBH) are an agricultural byproduct that might otherwise have little use. They decay over time, and permit drainage, and even retain less water than grow stones. A study showed that rice husks didn’t affect the consequences of plant growth regulators.
Perlite is a volcanic rock. These rocks are made by superheating and form as pebbles. It is commonly used to reduce soil density. Perlite has similar elementss and uses vermiculite but generally holds more air and less water and is buoyant.
Like perlite, vermiculite may be a mineral that has been superheated until it’s expanded into light pebbles.
Vermiculite holds more water than perlite and features a natural “wicking” property, which will draw water and nutrients during a passive hydroponic system.
If an excessive amount of water and not enough air surrounds the plants’ roots, it’s possible to slowly lower the medium’s water-retention ability by mixing in increasing quantities of perlite.
Sand is cheap and easily available. However, it’s heavy, doesn’t contain water very well, and it must be sterilized between uses.
Due to sand being effortlessly available and in high demand, sand shortages are on our horizon as we are running out.
Polystyrene packing peanuts
Polystyrene packing peanuts are basically inexpensive, readily available, and have excellent drainage.
However, they will be too lightweight for a few uses. They are used mostly in closed-tube systems.
Note that non-biodegradable polystyrene peanuts must be used; biodegradable packing peanuts will decompose into sludge. Plants may absorb styrene and pass it to their consumers; this is often a possible health risk.
The same type that’s utilized in aquariums, though any small gravel is often used, provided it’s washed first.
Indeed, plants growing during a representative traditional gravel filter bed, with water circulated using electric power head pumps, are, in effect, being grown using gravel hydroponics.
Gravel is inexpensive, easy to stay clean, drains well, and cannot become waterlogged. However, it is also heavy, and, if the system does not provide continuous water, the plant roots may dry out.
There are various standard nutrient solutions, like the Hoagland solution (1933), Steiner (1961), Bollard (1966), et al. These standard solutions are good as a general guideline but aren’t adapted to specific growing conditions.
Even if you opt to use one among the quality nutrient solution, confirm to use the nutrient concentration as a suggestion, and not the fertilizer recipe that corresponds to them.
The initial composition of the raw water you simply use will affect the nutrients that need to be added with fertilizers.
COMMON NUTRIENT RANGES IN HYDROPONIC NUTRIENT SOLUTIONS
|Element||Ionic form absorbed by plants||Common range (ppm=mg/l)|
|100-250 ppm elemental N|
|Phosphorus||Dihydrogen phosphate (H2PO4–)|
Monohydrogen phosphate (HPO42-)
|30-50 ppm elemental P|
|Potassium||Potassium (K+)||100-300 ppm|
|Calcium||Calcium (Ca2+)||80-140 ppm|
|Magnesium||Magnesium (Mg2+)||30-70 ppm|
|Sulfur||Sulfate (SO42-)||50-120 ppm elemental S|
|Iron||Ferrous ion (Fe2+)|
Ferric ion (Fe3+)
|Copper||Copper (Cu2+)||0.04-0.2 ppm|
|Manganese||Manganese (Mn2+)||0.5-1.0 ppm|
|Zinc||Zinc (Zn2+)||0.3-0.6 ppm|
|Molybdenum||Molybdate (MoO42-)||0.04-0.08 ppm|
|Boron||Boric acid (H3BO3)|
|0.2-0.5 ppm elemental B|
|Chloride||Chloride (Cl–)||<75 ppm|
|Sodium||Sodium (Na+)||<50 ppm TOXIC to plants|
|Suggested Nutrient Solutions for Various CropsCropNPKCaMgConcentration in mg/l (ppm)Tomato1904031015045Cucumber2004028014040Pepper1904528513040Strawberry50251506520Melon2004528511530Roses1704528512040|
Hydroponic Gardening Systems
We have discussed various types of hydroponics gardening theories in a previous thread. Now we are going to talk about various systems that are built using those theories. Some of which can be made easily, and some can be bought
Indoor Herb Garden
This is one of the best automatic systems available for hydroponics gardening. It is designed for herb-like plants such as flowers or vegetables. Some of its key features are:
- It is fitted with an intelligent electronic control technology which controls the supply of water and light to the plants automatically
- It is flexible to any plant catagories since you can move it to any part of your house for different lighting
- Simple to install and use
Stacky Smart Farm
This system is designed to grow fresh vegetables at home at any time of the year. This is also a self-watering automatic system. The system adopts stacks of subsystems to grow many plants in one system. Some of its other key features are:
- It does not need monitoring once you have planted
- It is easy to operate; you just put the base, plant, place timer, plug it in and hold back for the results
- It comes with all its attachments like the adapters, digital timer, pump, and other things necessary to work.
Stacky Smart Farm hydrophonic system; croplobby.com
Growmanji Solar Powered Hydroponic System DWC
This is a complete hydroponic system that is very popular these days. It adopts the DWC method and is solar-powered. So no extra spending on motors or batteries. Some other features are:
• The solar is collapsible hence saves space
• It is easy to assemble and use
• It conserves space
• The watering system is automatic
This system is ideal for growing fresh food. The aeroponics method used in the system makes the plant mature than most other systems. Some other features are:
- its plants mature five times faster than when grown in soil
- It has an interactive touch screen as a control panel for automatic control of water and lights
- It has a full spectrum of 45-watt LED light system
- Click and Grow Smart System
- Yet another year-round gardening system for your home. Click of a button can maintain all gardening process for you, so no supervision is required. Other key features are:
• It has the right choice of pre-seeded plant capsules
• It is effortless to install and maintain
Oxygen Pot System
This system is a bit more complex than most other systems. It is better to buy one than build. This system usually contains six pots for nutrient solutions. The system guarantees a steady oxygen supply for plants. Other features are:
- It has a two by 251 GPH high flow hydroponic pump
- It has a super-flow controller module for automatic watering and lighting notices
Oxygen Pot System; theweedprof.com
Dream Joy Hydroponic System
Another LED light featuring a system that is very suitable for home as it uses very little space. This straightforward system comes with growing mediums. Other features are:
- It is straightforward to use with no need for soil
- Three modes of Led light with time
- Ideal for growers who want to produce health-giving food product
iRSE Indoor Garden
Another LED light features a very suitable system for home as it uses very little space. This straightforward system comes with growing mediums. Other features are:
- It is straightforward to use with no need for soil
- Three modes of Led light with time
- Ideal for growers who want to produce health-giving food product
Hydroponics has provided us with a number of reasons why we should apply this technique of growing plants without soil.
Let us now check some of the key reasons why we should consider hydroponics over the conventional gardening method.
- Hydroponics saves a lot of space. You can literary turn your home to a garden using hydroponics to keep your back yard for other purposes.
- Hydroponics makes your gardening effortless. Several hydroponic gardening systems offer automated supervision. So no watering the plants, no weeding out, and no maturing.
- Hydroponic systems allow you to grow a variety of crops at one go. The most incredible thing about it; you do not have to provide separate supervision to maintain your plants.
- Hydroponics offers a virtually unlimited upgrade to your garden. From a small house garden to large scale production, hydroponics is your best option.
- Most hydroponic system is anti-pest. It means you have to worry about neither your plants’ health, nor for your family.
- You can teach your children about plants and vegetables at home with hydroponic gardening. Moreover, it will inspire the future generation to maintain your legacy.
- Finally, hydroponics offers you an exceptional gardening experience without spending too much. You will not have to buy an extra yard to grow your garden.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Hydroponics Gardens
Let us now look at some advantages and disadvantages of hydroponics gardening.
- No soil is required.
- Uses less space and time
- Maintains a fresh climate around the garden.
- Saves water
- Makes effective use of nutrients,
- Better rate of growth for plants.
- No complication of weed.
- Less pest, less disease.
- Plant it, forget it, enjoy it.
- Let us now look at some disadvantages and challenges.
- Requires some advanced technical knowledge.
- Raises issues of organic debate, are the fruits and vegetables edible nor not.
- Use of electricity may bug some people.
- Higher initial expense.
- Cannot plant more giant trees or retain them.
- System failure risks are complicated to avoid.
Future Development of Hydroponics Gardening
Hydroponics is already considered as the future of farming. The existing systems and technologies are providing much efficiency.
But the world needs more. Some mentionable future techniques of hydroponics gardening are briefly discussed below.
This is a floating garden demonstrated by a group of students from The Imperial College of London.
Plants float on the nutrient solution like a buoy. As per the demonstration, this system can allow a herb plant 7 to 8 yards a year. This is one of the promising technologies available for the future.
Urban Sky Farm
Perhaps a demonstration of this technology has already taken place. This tech will allow us to use the free upper space in urban areas to grow a farm.
The best thing about this technology is that plants will get more sun rays, which is required to make food for them, which later turns into crops.
Vertical Harvest Farm
This system is somewhat similar to the urban sky farm. But instead of using upper free space, vertical farms will use vertical spaces such as rooftops, balconies, etc.
This system is expected to use 90 percent less water than conventional gardening systems, making it one of the most promising techs for the future.
This tech will allow us to grow plants in the icy region of the planet, or even outside of our planet.
This technology was demonstrated in 2013 in a scientific research competition and won first prize. Researches to make this technology available for ordinary people is still ongoing.
Aeroponic Vertical Garden
This technology uses the principles of vertical gardening systems but modified them to adopt aeroponics. This technology is already at a test phase in the Philippines. If tests are conducted correctly, this system will provide up to 95% less water consumption.
Answers to some frequently asked question
Here are some frequently asked questions about hydroponics on the internet and their answers.
Q: How do You Choose the Right Hydroponic System?
A: Choosing the right system depends upon some key factors, which are:
- Space availability
- Available finance
- Time availability
- Type of crop to be grown
- Future expansion
You should compare each system with these criteria to see which system fits your needs.
Q: What Plants can you Grow Hydroponically?
A: Vegetables that will do well in a hydroponic garden include basil, parsley, string beans, green peppers, hot peppers, melons, squash, tomatoes, artichokes, beets, and asparagus. You can also have flowers such as roses, carnations, dianthus, and chrysanthemums.
Q: How often should I change my Hydroponic Reservoir?
A: The reservoir life mainly depends upon the plants. If your plants require a newer or extra reservoir, you may have to change them.
Q: How often to Feed Hydroponic Plants?
A: feeding of the hydroponic plants also depends on factors such as:
• Age of the plant
• Prevailing temperature
• Type of crop grown
• Nature of medium
In most systems, you get an automated feeding system. If your system is homemade, take expert’s advice.
Q: Why is Hydroponics Expensive?
A: The cost of installing and maintaining a hydroponic system is one of its main disadvantages. Both the starting and operational costs are high compared to conventional gardening. The materials and equipment used are costly, and you must have them to operate the system well.
Some Tips and Tricks
Here are some tips and tricks that can help in hydroponic gardening.
- Know what equipment you need and why
- Use a professional three-part hydroponic nutrients products
- Do not use additional nutrient additives your first time
- Have all necessary equipment and nutrients before you start
- Minimize light exposure to your nutrient solution
- Change your water and nutrients when every two weeks are completed
- Do not allow pets in your garden
- Have an extra reservoir of plain water waiting for your next nutrient change
- Control the temperature of your yard as precisely as possible.
- When visitors come, confirm that they obey the same rules about your garden
The hydroponics gardening systems are gradually taking over conventional gardening methods.
Experts admit that hydroponics offers much more efficient with much less labor. The process provides the only solution to foods and breathable air if mankind is destined to extend its home to any other planet.
The ISS or international space station is also working on growing plants in the space. Scientists and organizations are working tirelessly to make hydroponics easier with more efficiency. In the near future we hope to maintain a better world through hydroponics with other green technologies, leave a better earth for future generations.