If you’re a gardener but you live where the seasons don’t allow outdoor gardening year round, you’ll find it interesting to learn about hydroponics for growing plants indoors. You can produce house plants, vegetables, fruits or flowers, and you can prepare some seedlings for transplant to outdoor gardens in the spring.
Growing with hydroponics gives you complete control over your plants’ environment, including their nutrition. It can give you higher yields of flowers, vegetables, fruits and other crops. Hydroponic growing is not always done indoors, and the term does not mean “indoor growing”. Rather, it refers to the way your plants are given nutrients, to keep them growing and healthy. Some people do hydroponic gardening in refurbished greenhouses.
Many people would say that gardening with hydroponics is only that which is done without soil, using water or growing strata. Others use soil or organic materials only in the root areas, and call that hydroponics. In actuality, hydroponics would be better described as the cases where the grower is providing most of the plants’ nutrients through water which includes nutrient additive. If you use soil to fulfill most of your plants’ nutrients, that is more like traditional growing.
There are a few advantages to growing hydroponically rather than using traditional means to grow crops. You can get larger harvests of plants with better quality vegetables and fruits, and you can get them year round. This is not a possibility using only soil and light to grow.
If you have a hydroponic garden with a sterile media in the root zone, and your environment is clean, your crops won’t be exposed to diseases and pathogens that thrive in soil. In addition, gardening hydroponically eliminates soil-borne problems and weeds. Hydroponic gardening can be used for more intense growth periods than can traditional gardening, and your crops will have more cycles, as you control the environment to maximize their growth potential.
When you garden indoors with artificial light and nutrient solution, you can change the light intensity, timing and color, so that you can harvest from a small space year round, with good yields. You will be controlling the amount of nutrients as well as the timing by which they are delivered. This allows you to manipulate your plants to get higher quality and more harvested crops.
Since hydroponics means literally “without soil”, you’ll give your plants nutrients through media that is not soil-based. The media you use will only be filled with the nutrients you bought it with, or those you add yourself. Growth media are usually sterile until you add nutrients. You may buy a nutrient solution that is pre-mixed for a wide variety of plants, or a sterile solution that allows you to include only the nutrients you add yourself.
The media, including vermiculite, perlite, volcanic rock or rockwool, work well in absorbing the solution of nutrients. They can then release it along with moisture, to support your plants. Find a growing friend or a good hydroponics guide to learn more about this rewarding hobby.