Introduction to Hydroponics
Many of us think that all veggie gardens have to look alike, with rows and mounds of dirt, but vegetable gardening isn't limited to this anymore. In fact, many of the fresh fruits and vegetables you buy in the store are grown hydroponically, especially during the winter months or in colder climates.
What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a method of growing crops without soil. Plants are grown in rows or on trellises, just like in a traditional garden, but they have their roots in water rather than in dirt. Most of us confuse soil with nutrients. In fact, soil provides structure, not the actual food itself, for plant roots. The food comes from other materials mixed in the soil, such as compost, broken-down plant waste or fertilizers. Plants grown hydroponically can actually grow faster and healthier than plants in soil because they don't have to fight soilborne diseases; in addition, all the food and water they need are given directly to their roots around the clock.
Growing plants hydroponically doesn't have to be done on a large scale, and it's easier than you might think. Now there are kits, do-it-yourself systems and even fully automated growing tables, all designed for home gardeners.
Hydroponics is very simple -- in many ways, it's simpler than growing plants in soil. Plants need food, water and air. When you break it down to those three things, it becomes simple to give plants only what they need. Hydroponics is the science of growing plants without soil. The plants thrive on the nutrient solution alone; the medium merely acts as a support for the plants and their root systems.
Advantages to Hydroponic Growing Methods
The following are some of the advantages of growing plants hydroponically:
- You can grow more plants per square foot in a hydroponic garden because roots are directly fed; therefore there is no competition for root space. As a result, you can get higher yields per square foot, per unit of time.
- Plants will grow faster because they will be getting all the nutrients they need and in the proper proportions.
- Root systems stay smaller, so each plant can concentrate its energy on producing plant mass, rather than roots.
If you can follow directions, you can garden hydroponically. A few simple steps must be followed on a regular basis to ensure that your plants thrive. Once you get used to the routine, it's a snap. Anything can be grown hydroponically, but some plants prove to be more space efficient, including tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot chili peppers, lettuce, spinach, squash, cucumbers, broccoli, beans, snow peas and herbs and flowers of all types