Hydroponic gardening can be a great way to grow vegetables, flowers, and other types of plants. It allows gardeners to control every aspect of their plant’s growth, allows higher plant yields, and helps prevent the spread of fungus and other plant diseases.
Instead of using soil, hydroponic gardening uses a liquid to provide nutrients and minerals to plants. Most hydroponic gardening rooms use a combination of water pumps, nutrient release timers, and artificial lights to provide optimal growing conditions.
Equipment Needed for Hydroponic Gardening
A hydroponic garden requires several types of equipment: a water pump, liquid reservoir, runoff plumbing, irrigation plumbing, a timer system, and specialized plant holders.
Place plants in a container that allows a steady flow of nutrient-rich water. These containers can be designed for a single plant, or for several plants. A long trough will allow many plants to run off the same plumbing line, while individual hydroponic plant pots will require specialized plumbing.
Each plant container requires an intake and drainage pipe. The intake pipe will provide fresh nutrients and oxygen to a plants roots, while the drainage pipe will allow excessive runoff to return to a central reservoir. The central reservoir serves as a storage tank for liquid nutrients, allowing them to be refiltered before being pumped back to plants.
Each drainage line should flow back to the central tank. A drainage line can be made of any type of piping, preferably PVC or plastic. Pipes that can bend are often easier to work with, as many gardens will require equipment to be relocated.
All excess runoff should drain back to the central reservoir tank. In the central tank, a filter cleans the water of any debris or organic material. Many gardeners use an aquarium filter with a charcoal cleaner pump to filter nutrient water in a reservoir tank.
The reservoir tank also contains a pumping apparatus for supplying fresh water and nutrients to plants. The intake line from this pump runs to each plant container, allowing constant water circulation around each plant’s roots. As the plant container fills with nutrient water, excess liquid flows through the overflow, and into the drainage line.
Important Tips for Keeping Plants Healthy
A hydroponic garden does offer many benefits over traditional solid-matter gardening, but it does require more work. A plant’s roots are delicate, and require constant exposure to moisture. If the roots of a plant dry out, it can result in the death of a plant. In addition, minerals can crystallize on a root as it dries, preventing the plant from absorbing water in the future.
Plant roots must always be exposed to water. It’s important to keep a hydroponic pump running at all times: if water in a plant container stagnates, it can lead to the growth of fungus and mildew. In addition, fresh water provides oxygen to a plant’s roots, helping it grow bigger and stronger.
It’s also a good idea to use large-diameter piping when building a hydroponic garden. Small diameter pipes can clog, leading the death of any plants that rely on it’s water. Try to use at least a 3 cm pipe to ensure adequate water circulation. Drainage pipes should be at least 5 cm in diameter.
It’s also important to check the pH, hardness, and alkalinity of any water used in a hydroponic garden. While hydroponics can yield faster crop cycles and larger yields, they are sensitive to small differences in water quality. A pool testing kit can be used to help ensure water is in the optimal range for plant growth. Many plants have different optimal requirements, so it’s important to research a plant species to determine what type of water works best.
Choosing a Plant Food
Always use a liquid fertilizer designed for hydroponic gardens. Since a plant has to receive all it’s nutrients from water, it’s essential to use a comprehensive fertilizer. This will provide trace elements and minerals, many of which aren’t found in traditional fertilizers.