If you’ve ever heard someone mention hydroponics, you’ve probably wondered, what is hydroponics and how does it work? Hydroponics, which means, “working water”, is a method of growing food in water alone without using any soil. This may seem impossible, but researchers have found that plants are very capable of growing in materials other than soil, as long the nutrients they need are in that material.
History of Hydroponics
You might be surprised to learn the history of hydroponics. Historians have found that ancient peoples may have used hydroponics as a growing technique. Some believe the Aztecs created floating gardens, and hieroglyphics in Egyptian ruins describe plants growing in water. However, up until the mid-1900s, most of the population still had not heard of this technique and often asked what is hydroponics? Dr. William F. Gericke, who successfully produced a large number of vegetables, flowers and fruits using hydroponic gardening, invented the word “hydroponics”. His 25-foot high tomato plants attracted the attention of the military, which then used hydroponics to grow fresh produce for soldiers during World War II.
Growing Without Soil
That’s interesting, you say, but just what is hydroponics farming; how can plants grow without soil? All plants have a root system, which they use to absorb nutrients. It doesn’t really matter to the plant what kind of medium how those nutrients are delivered. They can be in sand, gravel or vermiculite, to name a few. The one thing all plants must have, however, is water.
Hydroponic methods of growing plants simply use water, or water mixed with one of these other mediums. These mediums simply provide a solid way of supporting the roots, versus water only, which requires the plants to be supported in some way above the water, allowing their roots to be submerged.
If you are thinking about growing your own hydroponic plants, there are some basic supply needs. Decide whether you wish to use purely a water-based hydroponic method or use solid medium such as gravel, etc. Beginners may want to start small, using something as simply as a dish or tray. There are also preassembled hydroponic kits available on the internet for those who want an easy way to get started.
Plant nutrients come in several forms. You can purchase some in a pre-mixed form or a condensed mixture and needs to be diluted before being used. It’s important to remember that nutrients will need to be refreshed periodically, depending on the number of plants and size of your garden.
Since water is the number one need of all plants, testing yours via a water analysis is a good idea. If using artificial lights, be sure to select ones offering a full spectrum to simulate natural sunlight. Spend some time researching the type of plants you wish to grow and find out their specific lighting and nutrient needs. Soon you’ll be the expert who can answer the question many people have which is…what is hydroponics?