“Hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture and is a method of growing plants in water, without soil.
So basically, we're looking to grow plants without actually having to plant them in the ground. That means we can grow them indoors if we choose! So let's break this down a little more! We'll start with Hydroponic soils and media, nutrients and lighting. There are many more factors to consider however we aren't here to preach. If you'd like more information, explore our blog page.
What is hydroponics?
Hydroponic methods of plant growth rely on rapid root growth (therefore rapid plant growth) and a variety of other factors. The easiest way to encourage rapid root growth is by selecting a growing media that allows your plants to absorb as manny nutrients as possible (usually known as soil when referring to conventional grow methods), in this case hydroponics generally uses COCO coir, Perlite, Clay Balls or NFT (Nutrient Film Technique).
Each of these methods have pros and cons that are explained below. Let's start with COCO Coir....
Where do the roots grow?
Coco coir is a byproduct of coconut fiber, basically the outer shell of the coconut is ground into a form of soil. There is a process behind this called retting. Coco Coir is then pressed into bricks, discs, coir pots or simply bagged. It is also an organic, environmentally sustainable substrate when new production methods made it possible to create hardier product.
Not only is Coco Coir an environmentally friendly option, there are other incredible benefits. Coco Coir is much more aerated than normal soil, which means it doesn't hold as much water. This means you can feed the plants more frequently and increase nutrient delivery; which will result in faster overall plant growth. To learn more about Coco Coir visit our blog page.
Clay Balls, also known as expanded clay are more frequently used in Aquaponics over Hydroponics. In saying that, clay balls are an advanced method of hydroponic farming for those that want to reap the rewards of harder work. Clay balls do not retain fluid for very long at all, therefore feeding cycles need to be frequent and constant. These types of garden beds provide stabilised pH, high pore space for micro-bacteria, again contributing to rapid root growth. Clay balls are also re-useable for years on end.
On the other hand, there are some downsides to clay balls. If the system fails and deprives plants of frequent feeding, they will quickly begin to die, unlike soil and coco that retain much more nutrient and fluid.
Nutrient Film technique
Picture a river stream. Often there are trees and shrubs that grow on the river bed. NFT systems are similar. They use a very shallow stream of water that contains nutrients. The nutrient rich water is recirculated via a pump and special gullies. These gullies are also shallow and plant roots are completely bare.
This form of hydroponic growing is like injecting a human being with vitamins and minerals directly into a vain. The bare roots are exposed directly to a constant flow of nutrients. This allows maximum uptake of nutrient and extremely rapid growth as the plant is continuously consuming what it needs. On the other hand, similar to clay balls, plants will die very quickly if the system fails.
Hydroponic nutrients are generally in a liquid form so they can be absorbed by the plant quickly. It is important to note that all primary nutrient bases generally include calcium nitrate, potassium sulphate, potassium nitrate, mono potassium phosphate and magnesium sulphate as these are essential for healthy plant growth.
You may be wondering whether these chemicals are organic or synthetic. There are several brands that are completely organic and a large amount of non-organic nutrient companies. Organic Hydroponics pose some challenges such as pH instability.