How to hydroponics – a how to guide to soil free gardening

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Agriculture is the oldest form of subsistence. Civilizations have been relying on it for thousands of years. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that there many different ways of growing plants. Humans are always creating and coming up with solutions to problems because they are adaptable. This very adaptability made our ancestors use a unique technique of growing plants called Hydroponics. Let us check out the soil free gardening.

How to do hydroponic gardening
Hydroponic gardening, Green plants

What is Hydroponic Gardening? (soil free gardening)

The word Hydroponic is derived from the Latin word. It means working water. It is a way of growing plants without soil. They only rely on water and nutrients. The best part about hydroponic gardening is that you can grow plants and vegetables all year round, plus they grow faster than the traditional approach of gardening.

Plants grown with a hydroponic system yield more, conserve water and soil as well as utilize less space. The hydroponic system is perfect for those who don’t have an ability of soil like apartment dwellers.

The process of hydroponic gardening is entirely in your control. You will be required to control the quality of water, air circulation, lighting, and more.

Over the last 100 years, horticulturists and scientists have conducted experiments with different hydroponic gardening methods. The primary interest of experimenting with hydroponics was its ability to grow fresh vegetables and fruits in the areas of the world that were infertile.

The hydroponic system has been used in the space program by NASA. They consider it a practical solution to growing food if the human species relocate to another planet.

Here are a few benefits of hydroponics gardening:

  • It has the ability to yield a higher amount of produce compared to the soil-based approach of gardening.
  • It allows the growing of food in places where the soils cannot support crop growth.
  • It doesn’t require the massive use of pesticides because there is no soil involved. Therefore, the air, water, and the food are cleaner

The use of the hydroponic system is increasing worldwide. More and more people like the idea of non-soil based agriculture.

Hydroponic gardening is divided into two types. One includes advanced systems which are; the aeroponic system and the nutrient film system. The second includes beginner systems, which are; water culture, ebb and flow, and the wick system.

Advanced Hydroponic Systems

Aeroponic System

An aeroponic system is a sophisticated hydroponic approach. The roots of the plants are hung in the air and then sprayed with nutrient and water solution. It is a very effective approach that calls for top-notch misters and pumps. If the system is faulty, the roots of the plants can quickly wither away.

In this system, the water and fertilization solution should be sprayed on the roots every week.

Items Required

  • Drill (optional)
  • Air pump
  • Airstone
  • Spray Tube
  • Misting Head
  • Submersible Pump
  • Materials
  • Basin or bucket for water reservoir
  • Hydroponic fertilizer; either in liquid form or dry
  • Grow light (optional)
  • PVC pipe for fitting the seedlings
  • Net pots with seedlings in it
  • Water

Directions

The first step is to set up a reservoir aeration system.  Fill up a container with nutrient-filled water and place it under the growing area. Then you add a bubbler in the water to create oxygen.

Connect the submersible tube and pump it to the sprayer. The solution will travel to the sprayer and mister through the pump in the reservoir solution. The sprayer or mister will be pointed to the plants in the growing area.

Then you have to set up the growing compartment of the plant. Set up channels evenly to suspend the roots of the seedlings.

If you are using the natural sunlight, then you can skip this step. If not, then set up a lighting fixture over the growing chamber. If your LED or fluorescent lights then position them 6 to 12 inches away from the plants. However, if you are using incandescent lights, then place them 24 inches away from the plants since they are very bright and hot.

Nutrient Film Technique

This is a bit easier than the Aeroponic system. This system utilizes a water-fertilization solution that flows in a loop from the water reservoir to the growing tray. This way, the plant roots hanging in the air absorb the nutrients as the water-fertilization solution passes by. There are no breaks in the loop.

The water-nutrient solution should be refreshed every week.

Items Required

  • Drill (optional)
  • Air pump
  • Air stone
  • Submersible Pump
  • Materials
  • Basin or bucket for the reservoir of water
  • Hydroponic fertilizer; either in liquid form or dry
  • Grow light (optional)
  • PVC pipe for fitting the seedlings
  • Net pots with seedlings in it
  • Water
  • Fill Tube
  • Drain Tube

Directions

Place the reservoir under the flood tray stand with nutrients and water. Place an aeration bubbling device in the reservoir to produce oxygen in the water.

Connect the water reservoir to the tray with a drain and fill tube. The fill tube will be attached to a submersible pump. The submersible pump controls the flow of water in the flood tray. The drain tube pulls the water into the reservoir so it can be used again. The water in this system is continuously pumping.

The next step is to set up the tray. In this system, channels and tubes are used as a grow tray. Using the tubes makes it easy to set the roots at an angle that ensures that the nutrient and water solution is flown straight to the plant roots. You may also use PVC pipes drilled with holes to place the seedlings or net pots in it.

Setting up the light fixture is the same for every type of hydroponic system. If you are using the natural light, then skip this step. If not, then use a LED or a fluorescent light because they are not very hot; you can place them 6 to 12 inches away from the plants. If you are using incandescent light, then position them 24 inches away from the plants. If they place too close, they will dry out and ultimately kill the plant roots.

Beginner Hydroponic Systems

Water Culture System

Water culture, also known as the raft system, is a fairly simple hydroponic system. In this approach, the plants are fit into a Styrofoam platform that floats on the water-fertilization solution reservoir. No water aeration is required for this technique.

You must add the water-nutrient solution as needed.

Items Required

  • Drill, Exacto knife ( optional)
  • Styrofoam
  • Air pump
  • Air stone
  • Materials
  • Basin or bucket for water reservoir
  • Hydroponic fertilizer; either in liquid form or dry
  • Grow light (optional)
  • PVC pipe for fitting the seedlings
  • Net pots with seedlings

Directions

Take a big container and add a nutrient-water solution. This will be your reservoir, which will be position directly underneath the floating Styrofoam plant raft. This system works perfectly for plants like lettuce as they are water-hungry. However, it is not suitable for vegetables like tomatoes.

Air pump and air stone are the most affordable and straightforward ways of aerating the water. The air stone is placed in the water and is connected to a pump outside the water reservoir. It is the same as the bubbler used in most home aquariums. The pump makes the air travel through the stone creating small air bubbles that oxygenate the water.

Take the Styrofoam sheet and cut it to fit the reservoir. Make small holes in the Styrofoam platform to place your net pots. Net pots contain a perforated surface that is filled with lay balls, perlite, or coconut coir and seeds. The roots are positioned to be in contact with the water solution in the reservoir.

Sunlight or natural light will make the plants thrive. If you are planting them indoors, then use incandescent light bulbs, but make sure they are 24 inches away from the plant as they exude a lot of heat. You may also use fluorescent and LED light but position them 6 to 12 inches away from the plants. Set up the lights above the tray.

Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System

Ebb and flow hydroponic system
Small plants

An ebb and flow system is also known as the flood and drain system, is a bit more complicated than the water raft system, yet it is very versatile.  In this system, the growing chamber us flooded by the nutrient-water solution and then drained, taking the solution back to the reservoir.

The water-fertilization solution needs to be refreshed every week.

Items Required

  • Fill tube
  • Drain tube
  • Submersible Pump
  • Materials
  • Basin or bucket for water reservoir
  • Hydroponic fertilizer; either in liquid form or dry
  • Grow light (optional)
  • Net pots with seedlings
  • Tray
  • Electronic Timer

Directions

The flood tray is placed above the nutrient and water solution reservoir. When changing the water, make sure to replace the old nutrients with the new ones every week.

The reservoir is connected to the flood tray via the drain and fill tube. The fill tube is attached to the submersible pump, which is equipped with an electronic timer. The submersible pump controls the water flow going up to the tray. The drain tube pulls the water back to the reservoir after the flooding takes place.

The submersible pump attached with a timer can help you control the system quickly. You can set up the frequency and the length of watering according to the needs of your plants.

The flood or plant tray is a massive container that is shallow so that you can fit your perforated pots in it. Plant the seedlings in the pots filled with perlite or any other growing medium of your choice. The seedling pots should be deeper than the plant tray.

This step is the same as other systems. In case you don’t have access to natural light, you have the option of using either incandescent lights, which are to be placed 24 inches away from the plants to prevent them from drying up and dying, or you may use LED light placed 6 to 12 inches away. The lights are to be set up directly above the tray.

The Wick Hydroponic System

The wick hydroponic system is the simplest approach. There are no electrical components involved. However, this system is not suitable for plants that require a lot of water like lettuce or tomatoes. It is ideal for plants like peppers, microgreens, and herbs.

Add or change the water every couple of days.

Items Required

  • Drill (optional)
  • Materials
  • Basin or bucket for water reservoir
  • Hydroponic fertilizer; either in liquid form or dry
  • Grow light (optional)
  • Seedlings
  • Plant tray
  • Growing medium
  • Nylon or cotton cord

Direction

Set up a reservoir and fill it with a nutrient water solution. It will be positioned beneath the plant tray with your growing medium and plants.

Attach a couple of wicks at the bottom of the plant tray through the holes. To make more holes in the tray, use a drill. The wicks soak up all the water from the reservoir and then take it to the growing medium in the plant tray.

Place the growing plant tray above the nutrient water reservoir. Try to use a growing medium that does not drain too quickly and will be utilized more effectively like soilless mixes, perlite, and vermiculite.

If you have access to the natural light, you are set. Otherwise, use incandescent light bulbs above the growing tray. However, make sure they are positioned 24 inches away from the plants. You may also use fluorescent and LED lights, but place them 6 to 12 inches away from the plants, respectively.

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The easiest plants to grow with hydroponic gardening are spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, and kale, as well as different herbs like cilantro, mint, oregano, basil, and parsley. Fruits like strawberries, tomatoes, and hot peppers can be grown easily too. Hydroponics gardening is the oldest method of agriculture used by civilizations such as the Egyptians, Mayan, and Aztecs. It is ideal for places and islands with infertile lands and most popular among apartment dwellers. Hydroponic is a different way of gardening you should not shy away from. The produce is yielded quickly and in bulk. You are able to enjoy your rewards without literally getting your hands dirty in the soil by this soil free gardening.