Do you remember when “hydroponics” was an activity only performed by science geeks or mull-heads? Homegrown labs had that clandestine feel about them and anytime you mentioned hydroponics it was met by dubiously raised eyebrows.
Much has changed since those days with homegrown hydroponics now hitting mainstream markets. And the reasons for this are multi-faceted; smaller homes, higher density living, financial constraints on families and even the emerging desire for people wanting to grow their own foods.
The problem is, unless you’re prepared to fork out some serious dollars for a production-level kit most home gardeners won’t venture into this arena. They’re more likely to purchase from others who grow their produce organically than do it themselves which is a tragedy for the progression of this technology as a homegrown activity.
So, let’s boil it down into some bite-sized pieces and hopefully you’ll build up the courage to give it a go yourself.
The Homegrown Hydroponic Process
Basically, hydroponics works by growing plants in a soil-less medium and flooding them with a nutrient-based liquid. Seedlings are either placed into a pot with perlite or gravel or some other resource that can help retain them and then continually, and regularly, watered.
Basic Hydroponics Equipment
- Container – this holds the medium with the plants in them. It needs to have some draining mechanism fitted
- Light – is very important and can either by via artificial lights or utilising a well-lit patio or balcony. Full-sun is too harsh.
- Pump – this is the engine room of the process. The pump needs to move the water through the reticulation pipes from the reservoir.
- Sump Tank/ Reservoir – this holds the run-off from the container grow-beds.
- Growing Medium – this can be anything that will retain the seedlings; coconut fibre, expended clay pellets, perlite and gravel.
- Reticulation – you will need some pipes running from the pump to the grow-beds and then also draining it away back into the reservoir.
- Nutrient – plants need up to 20 different mineral elements for successful growth.
- Carbon (C)
- Hydrogen (H)
- Oxygen (O)
Main Mineral Nutrients
- Nitrogen (N)
- Phosphorus (P)
- Potassium (K)
- Sulphur (S)
- Calcium (Ca)
- Magnesium (Mg)
Minor Mineral Nutrients
- Manganese (Mn)
- Boron (B)
- Sodium (Na)
- Chloride (Cl)
- Copper (Cu)
- Iron (Fe)
- Zinc (Zn)
- Molybdenum (Mo)
- Nickel (Ni)
- Silicon (Si)
- Cobalt (Co)
These are required as a liquid solution that can either be purchased or made yourself if you are prepared to give it a go. Here’s a helpful starter.
Here’s an image of the process setup. With this process they replace the growing medium by utilising grow cups which holds the plants in place.
Plants you can grow
Vegetables and some fruits are the main plants that are grown in a hydroponics setup but they’re not the only plants that can grow via this method. However, it’s fairly hard to make these arrangements look nice enough to become your sole garden but if space is limited it’s certainly an option.
You don’t have to do anything special with your plants to get them growing but you will need to remove any soil before inserting them into the medium. This can just be washed off leaving the roots exposed.
A homegrown hydroponics setup should be very cheap to operate. The only costs associated with this are the nutrients – which can mostly be avoided if you opt for aquaponics rather than just hydroponically grown plants. Plus, the energy source required to operate the pump, which can also be offset by using renewable sources such as wind or solar power.
The Future of Homegrown Hydroponics
The future for home-based hydroponics is huge. As more is known about this technologically greater numbers of home gardeners will begin to dabble in it and producers will be able to create kits, nutrient solutions and even seedlings far cheaper than they are now.