Basil and lettuce being grown hydroponically in a large greenhouse. Water usage is only 1% of regular farming!

Hydroponics is a method of gardening or horticulture that involves growing plants and crops without soil. This means that without soil, water provides the hydration, nutrients, and oxygen that is needed by the plant. This is achieved by using solutions that contain mineral nutrients. The solution is dissolved in an aqueous solvent and oxygen. This makes it possible for plants to grow when their roots are exposed to nutrient filled water. Additionally, the roots may be supported by mediums such as substrates, gravel, or perlites.

Hydroponics has several advantages. It uses minimal space and up to 90% less water than conventional agriculture. Also, with an ingenious design, a hydroponic garden can grow lovely fruits within a short time. Normally, in traditional gardening, a plant exerts energy in drawing nutrients and water with its roots from the soil. The idea about hydroponics is that the plant does not need to expend this energy in trying to sustain itself. Rather, when its roots are directly exposed to water and nutrients, it uses the energy that it would hitherto have used in sustaining itself to bloom and flourish.

Common plants that can be grown through hydroponics include pepper, tomatoes, lettuces, strawberries, marijuana, cucumbers, spinach, and herbs.

How Hydroponics Work

While hydroponic systems may have the advantage of using less water and space, some conditions are necessary for these plants to grow. You need to have absolute control over conditions such as pH balance and temperature. Also, there is a need to ensure that the plants can maximize their exposure to the nutrients and water provided.

The principle of hydroponics is simple. It is simply providing plants with what they need at the right time. The nutrients applied must be tailored to the kind of plant that is being grown. You have to monitor the pH level and adjust it appropriately as well as control how much light is received by the plant. This kind of controlled environment accelerates the growth of the plant.

Controlling the environmental conditions also reduces a lot of risk factors. Plants that are grown in open fields or gardens are usually faced with a host of risk factors such as diseases, pests, wind, etc. that can negatively impact on their growth. Without these obstacles and without the soil’s mechanical resistance, a plant is much healthier and can grow much faster. It will also produce high-quality fruits and flowers. You can find more advantages and disadvantages of hydroponics here.

Types of Hydroponic Systems

There are various types of systems that are used in hydroponics. They are:

  • Deepwater culture system
  • Wick system
  • Ebb and flow
  • Drip system
  • Nutrient Film technique
  • Aeroponics

Hydroponics Equipment and Supplies

Depending on the kind of system that you elect to use, there are various kinds of equipment that are needed when you are practicing hydroponics. You should get as much information as you can about hydroponics in Canada to help ensure you buy only quality equipment and supplies.

Some of the common ones include:

Water Pumps

Water is essential to any hydroponic system as it is what is used to supply the plants with needed nutrients. To be able to supply water, you need a reliable water pump. There are two types of pumps; the submersible and the non-submersible. While a submersible is placed in the nutrient solution, a non-submersible is installed outside of it.

Water pumps are classified based on their output which is measured in gallons per minute (GPM) or gallons per hour (GPH). When selecting one, you should consider the size of your set up as well as the rate at which water drains out of the growth media. Also, consider the head height which is the distance from the reservoir’s bottom to the height that you desire for the water to reach.

Deepwater culture systems and wick systems do not need a water pump as they have a stationary reservoir of water.

Growth Media

Instead of soil, non-organic and inert materials are used in hydroponic systems and a growth media is needed to support plant growth. Whatever medium is chosen should apart from anchoring the plant, allow for proper aeration and drainage of the plant roots. It should be strong enough to hold the plant but should not hinder the circulation of nutrients and air. Additionally, the growth media should be sterile so that it prevents the propagation of diseases, parasites, as well as pests. Examples of growth media materials include polyurethane foam, gravel, vermiculite, bark, perlite, coconut fiber, etc. You can learn more about growth media here https://www.trees.com/gardening-and-landscaping/growing-media.

Lights

You need the right lights to ensure the proper growth of the plants. Lighting is the next most critical factor after water and oxygen for your plants to survive. There are a variety of options available when it comes to lighting. These includes:

  • Fluorescent lights
  • High-intensity discharge (HID). This can either be metal halide (MH) or high-pressure sodium (HPS)
  • LEDs
  • Sulfur plasma

Bear in mind that lighting can be very hard to control as each type have their benefits as well as their downsides. Whichever lighting system is used must closely reproduce how the sun emits light. Furthermore, the size of your growing space as well as the kind of plants you intend to cultivate will determine the type of lighting you will use.

pH Test Kits

It is essential that you keep the pH of the nutrient solution at the right balance to have a healthy garden. Although some plants may be able to grow at low pH levels, it is better to keep the pH balance between 6.0 – 6.5.

To be able to do this, you need a pH test kit to test the pH level to ensure it is not too low or too high. If you find that it is not at the right level, then you may need a buffer to balance it.

Other types of equipment and supplies you may need for your hydroponics garden include:

  • Tents
  • Air pumps and air stones
  • Pots, trays, and buckets
  • Climate controllers
  • Fans and ducting
  • Netting
  • Clips, etc.

Conclusion

Hydroponic gardening has its advantages and it requires less work than conventional gardening. However, to be successful, you should have the best set of hydroponics equipment. You can get ready-made kits or you may decide to be adventurous and select your own set of equipment.