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What Is Hydroponics – Intro to Hydroponics

What is hydroponics

For those of you new to the world of hydroponics what better way to get comfortable with learning what is hydroponics than to learn the 5 W’s –  the Who, What, When, Where, and Why (let’s not forget the all important How)!

Who is hydroponics meant for?

More and more people are learning what is hydroponics and there is no limit to the type of people hydroponics will bring a great deal of fun to.  From the hobbyist looking for a fun, new challenge to the mom or dad that wants to feed their family the most nutritious and best tasting produce available, hydroponics can bring a great deal of satisfaction to almost everyone.  Hydroponics is especially popular among urbanites living in condos or apartment buildings that want to grow their own produce but don’t have access to a backyard.  There are also a number of hydroponic farmers that enjoy the “high school science fair” aspect of learning what hydroponics is!

What is hydroponics?

Taken from the Greek “hydro” meaning water and “ponos” meaning work, hydroponics is basically the growing of plants in a water nutrient solution rather than in soil.  Believe it or not, plants don’t actually need soil to grow – they just need the elements and nutrients naturally found in the ground.  Soil just acts as a convenient container for the plant and acts as a natural way to transfer these nutrients from Mother Nature to the plants.  Growing plants without soil is really nothing new and the technology can be traced back hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  Many ancient civilizations knew learned the secrets of what is hydroponics and there is even evidence that hydroponic methods were used in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, by the Aztecs, and even by the ancient Egyptians!

When to use hydroponics?

The great thing is that once you learn what is hydroponics you can grow any variety of crop or plant at anytime.  No longer are there “winter crops” or “summer crops” because you’re in control of what you grow and when you grow it!  As long as you can provide your crops and plants theproper conditions feel free to grow as you like and enjoy your favorite crop or plant year round.

Where is hydroponics used?

Hydroponics is becoming more and more popular as hydroponic farms require less space than traditional soil farms bringing fresh produce much closer to the end user and cutting down shipping times – be it grocery stores, or restaurants, or even your very own kitchen.  Due to environmental constraints, Israel has placed a large focus on perfecting what is hydroponics efficiently and is recognized as a world leader in the space.  Commercial hydroponic setups have also been popping up on rooftops in heavily urbanized areas like New York as restaurants are learning what is hydroponics in order to serve the freshest produce imaginable.

How to hydroponics?

Learning what is hydroponics isn’t too scary.  Instead of using soil to transfer nutrients to the roots of a plant, hydroponics transfers nutrients directly to plant roots via water based nutrient solution.  By supporting plants in a neutral medium such as inert clay, rocks, or sand hydroponic farmers have access to their plants’ roots and can feed their plants directly and continually.  Since the plants don’t have to spend energy growing their root system far and wide to search out nutrients they can use this valuable energy to grow faster and develop tastier, bigger, and more nutritious produce.

Why hydroponics?

While there is nothing wrong with traditional soil farming, learning what is hydroponics involves learning its many many advantages (as well as its important disadvantages).

Advantages of hydroponics:

  • Environmentally friendly – Eliminates damage from pesticides, fertilizer, and other pollutants
  • Less water – Hydroponic methods use up to 90% less water than traditional farming
  • Less space and higher yield – Perfect for those living in condos or apartments, or anyone else that doesn’t have access or space for an outdoor backyard garden.  And, since nutrients are fed directly to the plants, there is no soil depletion.
  • No digging, weeds or bugs – No more breaking work, dirt, and pests.
  • Faster yield – Hydroponics can cut harvest times considerably since all of the plants’ energy can focus on growing larger and faster
  • Year round cultivation – You decide what and when to plant
  • Better tasting and more nutritious produce – Most of the large scale farm produce you find at the grocery market has been bred to withstand long shipping times and look good on shelves weeks after it was picked.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t always mean the best tasting.  Fresh produce just about always tastes better and studies have shown that hydroponically grown produce can have up to 50% more vitamin content than traditional farmed produce.

Disadvantages of hydroponics

While its clear to see that hydroponics has many advantages there are also some important factors to consider before diving in.

  • Commitment – With a traditional soil garden you can virtually ignore your plants for weeks at a time since the soil acts as a natural buffer.  With hydroponics you are in control over all nutrients, water, and light so the slightest misstep can result in unpleasant results.
  • Trial and error – You can learn everything about what is hydroponics but it is FAR from an exact science.  You can buy all the right equipment and follow all the right steps but nothing takes the place of experience.
  • Start up cost – There is an initial start up cost to creating your own hydroponics garden.  Between your containers, air pumps, meters, growing media, lights, nutrients, etc. you should be prepared to invest somewhere around $100 or more.  The good news though is that once you have all of your supplies the ongoing upkeep is pretty minimal as most, if not all, items can be reused and recycled.

Once you get the hang of it you’re bound to have many successes with hydroponics – just remember not to get too frustrated as there will be some rough patches along the way.  Make sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center guides for more information on how and what is hydroponics to make the best of your ZeroSoil Gardens!