More Than One Way to Grow
The ability to grow food plants without soil requires the use of one of many hydroponic systems. There are numerous types from which to choose. They range from simple systems that require no electricity or special equipment, to complex systems that may include computer-controlled feeding, lighting and temperature control. Regardless of which system you choose, growing healthy plants using hydroponics is easy.
The Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) was developed in England in the 1970’s. Using this method, plants are suspended over a container that is filled with nutrient-rich water. A small submersible pump circulates the water feeding the plant. The roots obtain oxygen from the space between the suspension medium and the water. This type of system is very labor and energy efficient.
Ebb and Flow Hydroponics
Flooding plants on a regular basis and allowing the water to drain into a reservoir is known as Ebb and Flow hydroponics. Plants grown using this method are planted in a medium such as rock wool, perlite or gravel. These materials support the plant as it grows. Timers are set to flood the plant at regular intervals. This method allows the roots to dry out slightly between watering.
When considering which type of hydroponic system you want, you will need to decide if a passive or an active system is better for you. Passive systems are based on capillary action. Plants are fed by means of a wick. Nutrient water is drawn up a cloth wick that continuously feeds the root system. Plants are held in a growing medium of sand, vermiculite or a mixture of both. This type of system is easy to set up and inexpensive. Problems can arise with this type of system due to the lack of oxygen to the roots and the continuous exposure to water.
Plants grown in a hydroponic system where the nutrient water is completely drained from the roots at regular intervals is called an aeroponic system. If the system is open, where the roots are exposed to air and light, the plant roots may dry out between watering. Using an enclosed container for the plants, the roots remain humid and protected from light sources. This system is called a closed aeroponic system.
The square footage required for conventional gardens and some hydroponic systems can be very large. Using a vertical hydroponics system you can increase the amount of plants you can grow without adding additional square footage.
Using frames and hanging baskets, the number of plants can be increased without adding more space. Larger, heavier plants are placed on the bottom with lighter plants being placed above them. Plants that vine can be trained to grow up the rack or a support, which also saves space.
It is easy and cost effective to start gardening using one of the many hydroponic systems that are now available. Growing your own tasty food using an environmentally friendly system can be a rewarding experience.