What is Hydroponics? Hydroponics is a method of hydro culture and is a technique for growing plants without soil. Mineral nutrient solutions provide the nutrients required by the plant, completely negating the need for soil as a source for the plants nutrients.
Plants may be grown with their roots anchored in a growing media such as expanded clay aggregate, growstones, or rock wool. The roots may also be submerged directly into the nutrient solution without a growing medium.
Hydroponics is a fast growing agricultural advancement, and is proposed to be one of the more practical solutions to feed or ever increasing populations into the future.
The History of Hydroponics
During the 1700’s, researchers discovered that plants are able to absorb and consume essential minerals as inorganic ions in plain water. Previously soil would be used as the default source for nutrients, but researchers found that plants were able to absorb these ions directly from solutions of water rich in these nutrients. They found that soil wasn’t even a necessary component of plant cultivation!
Normally the soil would serve as the nutrient reservoir for the plant. The nutrients in the soil would dissolve into the water contained in the soil where the plants roots would then absorb them. When these same nutrients are introduced artificially into a plants water source, soil is no longer needed to serve as that reservoir.
This method of growing plants without the need for soil was first mentioned in the book Sylva Sylvarum. Authored by Francis Bacon and published in 1627, a year after his death, water culture owes its start to this very book. Then in 1699, John Woodward released his hydroponic experiments with spearmint. He discovered that water sources containing impurities caused a greater performance than completely pure, distilled sources. By 1842, 9 elements believed to be essential to cultivation had been identified and have been the basis for nutrient solutions to this day. All modern nutrient solutions used in soil-less grows should contain these elements in various concentrations.
Advantages of Hydroponics
Hydroponics has various advantages, some of these are unique to hydroponics. These advantages include:
- Soil is an unnecessary component, reducing mess and hassle.
- The closed, controlled system allows for ultimate control over your grow conditions.
- Disease and pests are easily controlled due to the closed system.
- Nutrient pollution is contained to the system, benefiting the environment.
- Water is contained to the system and is reused, reducing water usage.
- Relatively high and consistent yields.
- Allows optional use of pesticides.
Disadvantages of Hydroponics
One of the main disadvantages of hydroponics is the fact that without soil being used as a buffer, contamination of the system can result in rapid death of the plant.
In our blog posting titled Build Your Own Hydroponic System, we outlined the basic components behind most hydroponic systems. We mentioned that the systems are composed of six main parts:
- The grow tray / chamber
- Nutrient solution / water reservoir
- A submersible water pump
- Delivery tubing / pipe
- An automated timer
- & an air / oxygen pump
Grow Tray / Chamber
This is the part of the hydroponics system that contains your growing media and plants. Consider it the home for the plants.
Nutrient Solution / Water Reservoir
This component of the DIY hydroponics system stores the water and nutrient solution that supplies the plants with nutrients.
Submersible Water Pump
While not required in all systems, the submersible pump supplies your plants with nutrient solution by pumping the solution from the reservoir to the grow tray or plants directly.
Delivery Tubing / Pipe
The delivery tubing is required to transport the nutrient / water solution from the reservoir to the grow chamber / tray.
An automated timer is any simple timer that allows your custom built hydroponic unit to be activated on a predetermined schedule.
Air / Oxygen Pump
An air / oxygen pump is necessary to oxygenate the nutrient solution.
To learn more about building your own hydroponic system or for more info on the common components, check out the full article.
So exactly What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is an awesome, sustainable, and modern solution to growing plants in the 21st century!
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