Hydroponics

Hydroponics Tutorial


 


Hydroponics gardens are inexpensive, easily maintained, pesticide free, and relatively simple to set up. For these reasons hydroponics has become extremely popular. Hydroponics is used to grow healthy vibrant and lush indoor plants ,food and herbs. The basic requirements of most plants can be met without natural sunlight or soil using tried and true Hydroponics methods. Plants are supported in an inert medium and nutrition is provided by mineral elements that are water soluble.


 

With the proper use of nutrients and the correct artificial light, today’s' Hydroponics gardener can achieve amazing results all year long. An ideal environment is created as the Hydroponic Gardener determines the environment which would normally be provided by nature. In a completely controlled environmental agricultural system you control: Light, temperature, water, oxygen, pH, and nutrients. Whether you choose to grow your Hydroponics garden on a windowsill, desktop or a plant stand just be sure that the all the elements needed are present in your controlled environment.

In nature, bacteria break down the soil into the basic elements of nitrogen- phosphorus -potassium as well as trace elements. In hydroponics the nutrient solution is dissolved directly into water, and in an ideal situation the plant receives the perfect nutrition at all times A proper Hydroponics system takes the required amount of food directly to the root, In nature the plant's root systems must look for it, which in a sense utilizes growth energy that could otherwise be assigned where you want it - the flowers/fruit/vegetable/buds you are cultivating. Hydroponics growing mediums are inert and sterile, free of bacteria and insect/organisms that can be harmful to both the plant and gardener.


Getting Started

When initially becoming involved with hydroponics gardening, there are two routes that can be taken , you can buy a prefabricated hydroponics system or you can build your own hydroponics system. Either route requires some basic research.

 

1. Build Your Own

For some hobbyists, the construction is part of the fun. Slap together some buckets and soil, you're doomed to failure. Some preconstruction planning is essential. " How to Hydroponics" is an excellent reference Source.

Basic startup hydroponics systems can be built by anyone with the patience, and basic common sense, who is willing to take the time and go through the process.

Regardless of whether building your own hydroponics system, or purchasing a prefabricated hydroponics system, keep in mind that various hydroponics systems will naturally lend themselves to different types of plants. Keep the growth characteristics of your selected plants in mind when selecting a system. Learn as much as possible about the plants--such as the need for support, potential mature size and the area of the mature root system before starting - plan accordingly.



2. Prefabricated hydroponics systems

Some systems are suited to different varieties of plants. When specific plants are destined for a hydroponics setup, research their growth characteristics, and keep these characteristics in mind when selecting a system.

Various systems are available on the internet. They range in price from the $30 area to several thousand dollars. We have set up a small selection of some of the more popular systems from reputable manufacturers

Related Article - Prefabricated Hydroponic Systems





Basic Requirements for Hydroponics Systems

Light, Oxygen-Nutrient Ratio, Nutrient Strength, Growth Mediums, Alkalinity and Acidity [pH],Temperature, Air, Water Quality

Light

Let there be Light! Light is the first line of life for all matter, plants are no exception. Light is essential to carry on photosynthesis, without which you could give your plants all the nutrients and moisture money could buy, but you'd still end up with a dead heap of vegetable mass. Sunlight is the ideal source of light and contains the Reds and Blues plants require to produce a healthy growth. However in a Hydroponic system Sunlight is not always an option. Artificial Horticultural lights provide the solution for the Hydroponic gardener, they are cost effective assuming you shop carefully.

Hydroponic and Horticultural lighting allows you to extend the natural growing season of plants by providing your plants with artificial sunlight. Artificial lighting will also enable you to get an early start on the outdoor growing season, by starting your seedlings indoors much earlier than would be otherwise possible.

There are three primary varieties of horticultural lighting systems

Incandescent

Fluorescent

H.I.D. [High Intensity Discharge]

Other kinds of lighting simply will not produce a proper spectrum of color that is essential for plant growth. Most plants and vegetables need about 10 to 12 hours of light daily to promote healthy growth. Plants that produce fruits or flowers will show improvement with up to 16 hours a day of supplemental light.

Related Article Hydroponic Lighting

Nutrient Strength

Nutrients must be solely designed for Hydroponics. Soil fertilizers utilize bacteria to break down more complex elements into useful ones- a ideal hydroponic system has minimal bacteria, if any , Soil fertilizers are less soluble- Hydroponic systems require solubility as the nutrient delivery system is based upon that factor., Soil fertilizers are generally not pH adjusted, and usually too slow to release the necessary elements to be suitable for Hydroponic Systems.

Related Article - Hydroponic Nutrients

Oxygen -Nutrient Ratio

Plants can't absorb their nutrients unless Oxygen is present the higher the Oxygen level the quicker the absorption of nutrients . Oxygen maintains a healthy root system and allows the plant to absorb nutrients. Without oxygen circulating around the root system root rot would quickly develop. Man does not live by bread alone, and plants do not live by water alone, ample oxygen must be in the water. it. You do not grow in water in a hydroponic system, the water is a medium through which Nutrients and oxygen are fed to the roots, you need only keep the roots moist - not soaked.

 

 

Growth Mediums

In hydroponic's, the growing medium, not soil, holds moisture and anchors roots . Composed of inert mineral matter, it won't decompose or harbor potential soil-born problems. All the plant's nutritional requirements are filled by the nutrient mixes you add to your garden reservoir. The two basic growth mediums I recommend for Hydroponic Gardeners, Horticultural Rockwool and LECA or Light Expanded Clay Aggregate.

Related Article Hydroponic Growth Mediums

pH for Hydroponics

The requirements of Soil ph is not the requirements of Hydroponics ph ,do not confuse the two.

The scale for pH readings ranges from 1 to 14. A reading of seven means that the number of acid ions is totally equal to the number alkaline ions present in the measured solution. Any reading above seven indicates that alkaline ions are in greater number, and any reading below seven indicates that there are more acid ions. Each number above or below seven indicates a tenfold increase in either acidity or alkalinity. So a substance with a pH reading of five would be ten times more acidic than a substance with a reading of six. This is vital for hydroponic growing, even though the difference may seem slight between an ideal pH and actual pH, the numbers- if not understood make a huge difference.

Optimal pH for a nutrient solution is 5.6. If your nutrient solution or growing medium is too alkaline or too acidic many of the vital nutrients will be wasted , unabsorbed by the plant. A solution that is too acidic would create a calcium deficiency which would inevitably damage the root system, and lead to root rot as well as leaf fall off . If the solution is too alkaline, the plants can't absorb iron. This can generally cause chlorosis, a disease that makes plants produce insufficient chlorophyll. No chlorophyl, no photosynthesis the plant will die if the deficiency becomes severe.



The pH of the water you intend to use for your hydroponic growing should be determined before any of the nutrients are mixed into it. Unadulterated water registers a completely neutral reading of seven. Inexpensive Nitrazine paper is readily available and is used to quickly test the pH level. A pH kit from your swimming pool will also suffice.

To lower a high pH small amounts of distilled white vinegar will work, some people also use aspirin.

A low pH can be corrected {increased} by adding sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide to the water. Small amounts of one or the other should be used. Never touch hydroxides with wet hands. Handle them as little as possible and when you do, use sturdy water resistant gloves.

IF possible, test any pH adjustments on a single plant before you continue to make adjustments to your entire nutrient solution.

Related Article - Hydroponic pH


 

Temperature

Temperature requirements for plants in a hydroponics system are the same as out of a Hydroponic system.


Air

Plants require Carbon Dioxide, it is what they breathe. Poor ventilation will kill plants as surely as a lack of sunlight or water will. Ventilation systems as well as Carbon Dioxide Enrichment and control Systems are affordable and available. And are recommended for a lush Hydroponics Garden

Related Article Air Flow in Hydroponics

Water Quality

In most situations tap water is just fine for hydroponics systems, over extended periods of time you may get some mineral build-up, but this s not a major cause for concern. Excessive salinity or high zinc content could be harmful to your Hydroponics Garden .

Water containing too much calcium and magnesium (called "total Hardness") can also create problems. If the dissolved salts in your water supply measure 200 ppm or more, I recommend that you obtain a water analysis to determine calcium content. Excessive calcium is the main factor in determining if your water is hard. If an analysis of your water supply reveals that the Calcium content of your water supply is greater than 70 ppm (mg/liter) you should use Hardwater FloraMicro which provides micronutrients formulated for hard water conditions.

Other options are to collect rainwater, or install a reverse osmosis filtration system, or use purified water. Don't use mineral water, which can unbalance the nutrient solution, and in some cases may be toxic to plants.

Related Articles Salt Buildup in Hydroponic Systems      Basics of TDS in Hydroponics


Home Hobbyist Hydroponics Systems

There are a number of popular compact hydroponic kits and systems most popular with home hobbyists, researchers and teachers. Most systems are aeroponic systems and are scaled down versions of larger commercial systems.

                                                            

Passive Planters in Hydroponics

Probably the most commonly known form of hydroponics. These systems do not require a water or air pump and are therefore called passive systems.

Hydroculture planters utilize a clean, porous growing medium to support plant roots. A nutrient reservoir in the containers base enables the plants to take as much or as little water as necessary. Water level indicators can show when and how much to water. Clean, odorless and non-allergenic, planters are ideal for most environments.

Nutrient Film Technique for Hydroponics

The Nutrient Film Technique is the purist form of hydroponics systems. It is also the form of hydroponics most intriguing due to its futuristic aspects.

In this Hydroponic systems, the nutrient is fed directly into tubes which the roots draw from. The excess is gravity drained back to a reservoir. A thin nutrient film allows the root system to have continuous contact with the nutrient and the air layer above simultaneously.

Most Commercial Kits are user-friendly and decent quality, simple by design, relatively easy to assemble. They work by trickling a slow moving film (stream) of oxygen rich nutrient down gently sloped, flat bottomed gullies (channels). Plants love it and thrive in this Hydroponics system. These kits are basically scaled down versions of larger commercial Hydroponic installations.

See Nutrient Film Technique as a Hydroponic System   By A.H. Rabia

Aeroponics

Plant roots are suspended in highly oxygenated nutrient solution allowing easy inspection and root pruning . Air pumps, compressors or Oz injectors provide oxygen which is crucial to healthy plant growth. The simplicity and affordability of these very active systems make them popular with home Hydroponic hobbyists and commercial Hydroponic growers alike. In an Aeroponic system the roots are misted within a chamber. A pump pushes the water with nutrient solution through sprayers, keeping the roots wet while providing a maximum amount of oxygen. Deep Water Culture is another form of aeroponics. The root system of a plant grown in Deep Water Culture is immersed in water with a bubbling aerator keeping the roots oxygenated.

Flood & Drain Hydroponics Systems

Flood & Drain Hydroponics systems are similar to Nutrient Film Hydroponics systems and are ideal for multiple plant per square foot growing where individual plant inspection is difficult. They are also very popular as propagation tables.

A plastic growing tray is flooded periodically by a submersed pump connected to a digital timer . Medium and root system are soaked, then drained (via gravity back through the pump) at specific intervals.

Various mediums can be used, Horticultural Rockwool and Geolite Aggregate, I generally use Horticultural Rockwool, it is the most popular with Flood & Drain Hydroponics systems.

Professional Soilless Grow Substrates are reliable and flexible. Cultilene and Grodan are two leading substrate producers. Both companies have established a good reputation. Where such properties as strength, optimal air-to-water ratio, homogeneity and excellent root zone management are important. Stonewool substrate is made from basalt. Basalt originates from the earth’s interior - brought to the surface as lava . Melted again, the material in its basic form is made by spinning it into a defined structure.

Horticultural Rockwool and Geolite Aggregate, I generally use Horticultural Rockwool Miniblocks are the best choice for rooting cuttings. Can also be used for germinating seeds. We recommend soaking them in pH 5.5 water overnight, and add seeds or cuttings the next day. Keep them under a dome to retain moisture and mist if necessary. From here, you can transplant into any growing medium, soil or Hydroponic.

Drip-Irrigation or Micro-Irrigation in Hydroponics

Greenhouse irrigation systems employ drip or micro-irrigation. It entails macro-moisture efficiency a principle of minimal water consumption and maximized plant benefit. There are numerous dripping/trickling/macro-moisture efficiency spraying devices on the market today for the grower to choose from. A submersed pump feeds nutrients solution through header tubes to secondary feed lines connected to drip emitters.

A controlled amount of solution is continuously drip-fed over the medium and root system. Another tube is connected to the lower part of the system to recover unused solution, and it is generally re-circulated.

 

Hydroponic Crop Profiles

Raspberries BlueberriesHerbs






Cucumbers Garlic Peppers






Mushrooms Lettuce Potatoes