Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hydroponics Part 1

There are many ways to set up a hydroponic garden, but out of all the many ways, they all boil down to six fundamental methods. Those six fundamental methods are the Wick System, Deep Water Culture, Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain), Drip Systems, Nutrient Film Technique, and Aeroponic.

In a hydroponic system, the main setup is the plants grown in the growing medium/tray and below the growing tray is the reservoir where the nutrient solution is. The difference in the systems is the materials used and how the nutrients are taken up by the plants from the reservoir to the grow tray.

The most straightforward hydroponic gardening system is the Wick system. It is a passive hydroponics where the medium is inert. The nutritional solution is taken up with a wick that goes from the reservoir up to the growing medium. A wick is a piece of thread or string. The most commonly used growing mediums are Vermiculite, Perlite, Coconut Fiber, and Pro-Mix.A downside to the wick system is that the nutrient solution gets depleted before the wick can resupply with more nutrients for bigger plants or those plants that need a lot of water.

Out of the active systems, the deep water culture hydroponic system is the simplest one. The plants are planted in a platform made of Styrofoam and the platform is stuck in the reservoir where the roots of the plants are floating in the nutrient solution. There is also an air pump that connects to the air line and pumps oxygen to the air stone, which provides oxygen to the plant’s roots dangling above. Not many plants can grow well in this hydroponic system. One of the plants that does very well in the water culture system is the water loving leaf lettuce.

With the Flood and Drain system or also known as the Ebb and Flow, a submerged pump in the reservoir pumps up the liquid nutrients into the grow tray and then as it overflows the grow tray the extra nutrients is funneled back to the reservoir through the fill tube. So how is the flood and drain system controlled? The flood and drain system is controlled by a timer connected to the pump. It is typically set to go off a few times everyday based on several factors such as the kind of growing medium employed, the humidity, the temperature, plant type and size of the plants. As the timer connected to the pump goes off, it signals to flood the grow tray with nutrients. Then, the next signal to the timer telling it to turn off, it returns the liquid nutrient back to the reservoir. Although the flood and drain system is compatible with many types of growing mediums such as gravel, Perlite, or Grow Rocks, the preferred growth medium are the ones that can hold more water such as coconut fiber, Rockwool, or Vermiculite because this system is also more prone to power , timer and pump failures. If the flood and drain cycle does fail, the plant roots can desiccate really fast, which is why the preferred growth medium is the one that holds more water.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Micronutrients, Hydroponics, and pH

Plants require the micronutrients calcium, boron, sulfur, magnesium, copper, cobalt, manganese, iron, zinc, and molybdenum in order to grow healthily. They are more prone to fungus, pest, and bacteria, stress, diseases, and may have problems absorbing the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium nutrients. By providing the plants with all the necessary nutrients that they need, they are able to develop to their full growth and produce potential. Commercially grown food may not be as nutrient as it was back in the day because the fields have been farmed extensively and the micronutrients may have been depleted. If the fruits and vegetables are not getting the micronutrients, then humans and animals who eat them won’t receive the nutrients either and may be nutrient deficient. With this issue and may be some other reasons, many people have chosen to grow their own garden for fruits and vegetables. So remember when you grow plants in soil and in a hydroponic garden, be sure to cultivate the land with micro-nutrients or also termed trace elements .

Hydroponic garden can be a simple and uncomplicated operation unless you decide to go high tech and want to expand. It’s so simple you can start with one plant. A nursery pot or hand water bucket is sufficient to use as your growing medium or any of the growing mediums available. Hydroponic gardening does not need grow lights, electricity, or any other automated things. Just make sure the plants get a form of light required to grow, natural or artificial. However, depending on your resources, you can always go high tech and manage your plants with devices such as the computer. People who garden hydroponically as a hobby do usually use a bit of both. They will also commonly have a growing tray, a reservoir, a water pump, a timer, air pump, and air stone.

pH is an important factor in gardening in soil and particularly important in hydroponics too. If the pH fluctuates, then plants aren’t able to take in the different nutritional substances. The good thing about hydroponics is that pH is much easier to test and control in hydroponics than in soil growing where it is much harder to adjust the pH and takes a lot more time.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hydroponics and Fertilizer

There are many ways that a hydroponic garden can be grown. When you hear about hydroponics, most people think of plants suspended in water without soil, which is one of the common techniques. You’re probably asking what’s so great about growing and why do people do it? As a hobby? As a new fun innovation? Probably those reasons and the benefits it provides. But, the continued interest in hydroponics is because growing plants hydroponically provides the plants the nutrients in a very efficient way. People can monitor the amount of nutrients and pH to be taken up directly by the roots and the plants do not have spend energy looking for the nutrients in the soil. That means the plants are able to spend more time growing and producing flowers instead of converting the nutrients into a very soluble form. With more time spent growing and producing flowers, you’ll get fruits much quicker. So if the plants aren’t planted in the ground with soil, then what? The plant roots are placed in a growing medium and that material may be vermiculite, perlite, coconut fiber, gravel, Rockwool, and sand. It is just a growing medium. The growing medium does not provide the plants with any nutrients. The plants are given scheduled watering cycles of water and fertilizer. So what kind of fertilizer do hydroponic plants need? Hydroponic plants need hydroponic fertilizer or highly formulated fertilizer for hydroponic use. All fertilizers contain the 3 major nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. But the difference between regular fertilizer and hydroponic fertilizer is that hydroponic plants need nutrients that contain the other essential micronutrients that are not in regular fertilizer. If the micronutrients are not in the soil or have been depleted due to continual planting that can be a problem for the plants. Organic fertilizer compared to regular and hydroponic fertilizer is different in soil structure and how the plants get the nutrients. Organic fertilizer contains microorganisms that are able to break down the nutrients allowing for the plants to easily absorb the nutrients. In the past, organic fertilizer and hydroponic fertilizer were completely unrelated. However, now some organic fertilizers are able to be used with hydroponic plants.