Have you ever tasted the vegetables grown in hydroponic farms? If you have never tasted them, you will be surprised by the richness in their taste and texture. There is nothing like the fresh vegetables grown in the hydroponic farms, especially when you grow them by yourself.
This article will be discussing the basics of growing vegetables through the hydroponic technique, components of a hydroponic system, and the benefits of growing crops through this technique. So, let's get into this!
What does hydroponic farming mean?
Hydroponic farming was initially an experiment to minimize the use of water and nutrients in agriculture. The scientists managed to grow crops in liquid nutrient solutions and got better growth compared to crops that are grown in soil.
Hydroponic farming defined as the method of growing crops in a soil-less medium where the plant roots exposed to a liquid nutrient solution from which they get all the essential nutrients required for their growth.
When the roots are in direct contact with the nutrient solution, there is no wastage of nutrients. The crops grown in hydroponic farms use 95% less water compared to crops grown by the traditional farming method.
Components of a Hydroponic System
A range of hydroponic systems developed since this technique came into practice, but the fundamental components of all these systems are almost similar. Understanding the functions of all these components will help you in growing your first fresh and healthy harvest.
The primary components of a hydroponic system are:
1. Growing Media: Since there is no soil to support, supply nutrients and water to the plants, we need some material to do this. Here the growing media comes into work. This medium provides moisture and support to the plants.
Before deciding, which growing media you are going to use for your hydroponic system, make sure a few things:
a. It should have a neutral pH.
b. Reusable to save up the cost.
c. Provide good aeration and drainage (too much water retention capacity of media is not desirable for plants).
d. Use environment friendly and organic made media.
Some of the types of growing media mostly used in a hydroponic system discussed below:
Vermiculite: Good retention capacity for moisture and nutrients but quite expensive.
Rockwool: Good oxygen retention but almost non-disposable.
Perlite: Lightweight and reusable but form dust particles.
Coconut Coir: A byproduct of the coconut industry, reusable, and eco-friendly but often mix with other materials.
Starter Plugs: Suitable material for seed germination and plant propagation but quite expensive.
Expanded Clay Pellets: Reusable but have reduced water retention capacity.
2. Growing structure: The plants are grown in these structures, having various shapes and sizes according to the plant requirements. These are vertical towers, growing trays, buckets, horizontal channels, etc. Mostly these structures are made up of plastic material that can be recycled and reused.
3. Reservoir: The hydroponic reservoir has more functions than just storing nutrients and water. Plants also need oxygen for their growth, and they take most of the oxygen from the roots, that is why dissolved oxygen is essential. The hydroponic reservoir contains the water pump, and the air diffuser to pump oxygen in the system.
4. Nutrient Solutions: The nutrient solution is the only source of nutrient to the plants, and that is why it becomes necessary to apply a balanced solution which contains all the essential nutrients in an appropriate composition required for proper growth.
A whole range of these nutrient solutions is available in the market, but they are for generalized usage and not prepared for specific conditions.
If you are preparing the nutrient solution on your own, make sure to use distilled water to prevent the harmful effects of unwanted minerals and maintain the pH between 5.5 to 6.5 for better absorption of macro and micronutrients.
5. Submersible Pump: The submersible pump placed inside the reservoir to pump nutrient solution and water to the hydroponic system.
Submersible pumps are easier to use and produce lesser noise, but it gets heated during the operation and heats the reservoir content.
6. Air Pump: When plants are grown in the soil, they take oxygen from air cavities inside it. In a hydroponic system, the plant roots submerged in water, and that is why dissolved oxygen becomes crucial.
The air pump diffuses air into the system and attached inside the reservoir. It generates air bubbles while diffusing oxygen inside the growing system, and prevents the growth of bacteria and algae.
There is one more additional component that you will only need if you are growing your crops inside, yes that are artificial growing lights.
The crops or vegetables grown in the hydroponic system are free from insecticides, and soil-borne pathogenic diseases, this increases the nutritional value of the crops. The whole crop growing method in hydroponics is much environment friendly because there is an efficient usage of water and nutrients.
If you are looking for a sustainable way of growing your food, hydroponic farming can be a good option.