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The simplest way to explain hydroponics is that it’s a method of growing plants without soil. A variety of other materials may be substituted for soil to promote root support, and plants are nourished with nutrient-rich water to optimize growth.
Want to give it a try? Here’s what you’ll need:
• Water: Fresh water is the key to great results in hydroponic farming. Filtered water with an optimal pH will yield the best results. The ideal pH (around 6-6.5) can be achieved by using solutions that can be purchased from a gardening supply store or online.
• Soil Substitute: Even though soil is removed from the growing process, root support is still essential. A wide variety of grow media can be used instead of soil, including vermiculite, peat moss, rockwool, coconut fiber, and more. Loose materials that retain moisture are ideal.
• Nutrients: Because your hydroponically grown plants don’t have the nutrients in soil to rely on, it’s essential that you include nutrient-rich plant foods to promote growth. Calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous are just a few minerals that help support healthy growth and optimize your crop.
• Oxygen: For a thriving crop, oxygenation is crucial. Not having appropriate space between your water source and root support media can lead to poor oxygenation or even cause you to drown your plants. Make sure your container is oxygenated. Supplies such as air pumps and air stones can help ensure you have the correct amount of oxygen.
• Light Source: Investing in quality lighting for indoor growing is essential in maximizing the success of your crop. Doing a bit of research on lighting needs for each type of plant you are planning on growing can go a long way in achieving success.
These five considerations will help give you a solid orientation to the basics of hydroponic growing. While you can build a system yourself, a number of online retailers also sell hydroponic systems that give you many of the key elements you need to get started with growing hydroponically.
Benefits of Hydroponics
There are many benefits of growing plants and food hydroponically. Hydroponic methods allow farmers and growers the opportunity to grow in virtually any location all year round. Hydroponic growing operations can also produce a much higher yield in smaller spaces than traditional farming methods, with fewer resources expended. While growing without soil, it can also be easier to troubleshoot growth problems or crops that are not thriving, as the many variables that can affect soil quality are removed. A more controlled growing environment means you can find the perfect conditions, materials, light, and more, ultimately arriving at a formula for success that is replicable time and time again.