What is hydroponics

Hydroponics is simply growing plants without soil.  The plants are fed a nutrient solution and a substrate is used for the plant to grow in.  Depending on the type of hydroponic system, the substrate may be perlite, pebbles, rockwool, coconut coir, expanded clay or other material.  The substrate helps hold the nutrient solution, but is porous enough to allow air exchange to the roots.  The plant’s roots grow in the substrate to secure the plant in the container or trough.

Hydroponics has been around for thousands of years, with the first published work about growing plants without soil appearing in 1627.

Advantages of Hydroponics

Hydroponics has a number of benefits over traditional growing.  No soil is needed, meaning hydroponics can be used in areas with poor soil, or even with no soil, like in a city.  The water used usually stays in the system and is reused, resulting in a lower water requirement – important in those areas where water is scarce.  Nutrient levels can be carefully controlled, resulting in less fertilizer being used and healthier plants.  The fertilizers also don’t get wash off the fields by rain or irrigation, keeping them out of rivers, lakes and the rest of the natural environment.

Disadvantages of Hydroponics

As with everything in life, hydroponics does have its disadvantages.  Without soil acting as a buffer, a failure in the hydroponic system can rapidly lead to plant death.  Some diseases, such as damp-off caused by verticillium wilt, can be more likely to attack hydroponic operations due to the higher moisture levels usually found.

Hydroponics is a great way to grow fresh herbs and vegetables year round, especially in places where traditional gardening isn’t possible.  The costs to start your own small hydroponic garden can be quite low and very rewarding, especially when you get to taste the fruits of your labor!

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