Four Primary Hydroponic Growing Methods
In a soil garden, plants are rooted in the soil and draw nutrients from it. In hydroponics, a nutrient rich solution is fed directly to the plant roots. In some hydroponic growing systems an inert growing medium, such as perlite, rockwool or expanded clay pebbles is used in place of soil. These growing mediums are porous and absorb the nutrient solution, allowing the plants to use it as needed.
In other hydroponic systems, like the NFT system, no growing medium is used and the plant roots are suspended in a grow channel.
The four most common methods of hydroponic gardening include
I think that we can all remember the feeling of eager anticipation a childhood Christmas morning. The rush to the packages. The tearing of paper. The elation of seeing that one incredible toy you had coveted for the preceding 12 months, lying there before you. The utter devastation brought on by three small, heartbreaking words-“Batteries. Not. Included.”
The day your new hydroponics kit arrives is much like Christmas, regardless of the time of year. The same devastation can arrive with your kit as arrived with that awesome batteryless toy on that long ago Christmas morning, if you haven’t done your homework!
The key to a happy day and a quick start to your hydroponics growing is to make sure that the kit you decide on is complete. A complete kit will include the following equipment: lighting, reservoir, pump, growing chamber or tray, delivery system, and a timer. It will also include your nutrients, growing media, mesh pots, and possibly a means of testing pH. Read the description carefully, ask your vendor questions, and make sure that all these components arrive at your home at about the same time to avoid the anxiety of needing “one more part!” before starting your system up.
Before you even order your system there are several things to consider. The list runs something like this- “What do you want to grow? How much do you want to grow? How much space do you have available? How much do you have to spend on the project? How much time do you have to spend operating and maintaining your system?”
The answers to this first list of questions will lead you to another set, but fear not! The answers to the first questions will inform some of the answers to the next questions. The round two questions will run like this- “What kind of lighting will I use? What kind of venting and heat dissipation will be required? What type of system will I use? What growing media will I use? What nutrients will I need?”
In my case, I want to grow vegetables, salad greens, and herbs. I am not a sport fisherman, although I don’t frown upon it. I fish to eat, and to me, flowers and ornamentals are like catch and release gardening (please don’t tell my wife I said that!). I want a maximum yield in a minimum space with little in the way of maintenance and operating time. So I am going to look at an ebb and flow system with High Intensity Discharge lighting capable of using both High Pressure sodium and Metal Halide bulbs. This lighting scheme provides the flexibility to maximize growth at both vegetative and fruiting stages, while the ebb and flow system is simple to operate and low on maintenance. Remember though, there are other lighting options and there are at least five other types of hydroponics systems.
Your needs may be different than mine, so be sure to do your homework ahead of time. With a little planning and research, the day your kit arrives can be the day your system goes into operation. Just don’t forget the batteries!
Listed below are some of the common kits available to get you started.