The words hydro (which means water) and ponics (which means labor) come together to form the word hydroponics. Hydroponics is soil less gardening that replaces your soil-based medium with a nutrient-rich solution that feeds your plants with the vital elements they need to grow.
Although to set up a hydroponic garden step-by-step can be very expensive, hydroponic kits make hydroponic gardening affordable and hydroponic kit instructions make learning to grow hydroponic plants easy and enjoyable.
Some hydroponic gardening systems to consider are:
- Gravity Feed Systems – One of the simplest hydroponics systems, solution flows from one vat into your plant bed. When the bed is flooded, excess solution drains into a second vat and then is returned to the first vat (recovery system) or discarded (non-recovery system.)*
- Ebb & Flow Systems – Named after the way the system works, the "flow" floods plant roots with nutrients. As the solution "ebbs" (recedes), the air circulates and the plants receive necessary oxygen. The ebb & flow is one of the easiest hydroponic systems to run and operate.
- Drip Systems – Probably the most popular type of hydroponic system, a timer controls a submersible pump that feeds the nutrient solution into a drip line. In a drip recovery system, excess returns to the reservoir; however, a non-recovery drip system takes less monitoring of pH fluctuations and nutrient strengths.*
- Wick Systems – If you are familiar with growing plants (such as African Violets) in self-watering plants, you may be familiar with wick systems. Solution is drawn from a reservoir through a wicking cord to a soil less growing medium like perlite or vermiculite.
*Note: Although recovery systems are more cost effective, they need to be monitored more closely since different nutrients may be absorbed at different ratios and pH fluctuates according to the solution strength.
Anything that you can grow in garden soil, you can grow using hydroponics. Hydroponic gardening offers several advantages over soil-based gardening.
- Hydroponic gardening puts you in control of light and temperature as well as plant nutrition, making it easy to give your plants optimal growing conditions resulting in better quality harvests.**
- In most cases, plant growth rate is 30% to 50% faster.
- Because hydroponic gardening is indoor gardening, plants are less susceptible to pest infestations, plant diseases, and other soil-based gardening pathogens.
- Once established, a hydroponic garden is nearly maintenance free. (No weeds!)**
- Indoor hydroponic gardening enables you to produce healthy fruits, flowers, herbs, and vegetables all year round.
- Hydroponic gardening can be as Earth-easy as you want to make it. Hydroponic solutions can be made totally of organic compounds to result in 100% organic harvests, with no worry about chemicals leeching from neighboring applications of chemical fertilizers, lawn fertilizers, or pesticides.
Like all indoor gardening systems, because you control all aspects of your plants' growth requirements, in hydroponic gardening you'll need to monitor light, temperature, and nutrition. However, with today's timers and controls, a hydroponic growing system is easily automated.