Before starting hydroponics, there are some important elements of hydroponic growing you need to consider and put in place. This article will help you to identify what you need to start hydroponics.
Brief Introduction to Hydroponics
Hydroponics involves the growing plants in a soil-less environment.
In hydroponic, a growing media and a nutrient solution serve the same functions as soil to plants.
Your growing media provides support and stability to your plants as your nutrient solution supplies oxygen and nutrients to your plants.
With hydroponics, Research shows you’re likely to experience a 20% increase in yield and productivity compared to growing in the soil because hydroponic plants invest their strengths in vegetative growth since water and nutrients are readily available in nutrient solutions.
Hydroponics is an advanced science of farming now gaining popularity among crop growers. It could be practiced indoors or outdoors, depending on what suits you best.
What you need to get started with Hydroponics
Choose your Crop
Your choice of plants is the primary determining factor of the structure of your hydroponic garden. You should decide on what plant you want to grow before anything else.
As a hydroponics beginner, you shouldn’t pick too many plants to start with so you can have a rich experience of how hydroponics growing works.
Your own Hydroponic System
You may start to concern yourself with the appropriate hydroponic system you want to practice as soon as you have selected what plants you desire to grow.
Usually, the most popular hydroponic systems you will encounter are the Ebb and Flow system, the Wick System, Aquaponics, the Nutrient Film Technique, Deep Water Culture, and Aeroponics systems.
The most conservative of them being Aquaponics because of its judicious use of water and natural provision of nutrients to your plants.
For hydroponic starters, the wick system is usually straightforward enough to practice as you can practice it with readily-found resources if you wish to only test the waters with hydroponics first.
The wick system involves transferring nutrients from your reservoir to your growing media using a wick.
Hydroponic growers can narrow down the system best for them by considering the space available to grow, the cash available to sponsor the system, availability of materials, and a host of other factors that could be individually applicable to growers.
A nutrient solution
Hydroponic fertilizers are dissolved in water to make a nutrient solution. Since hydroponic growing deals a lot with water in the absence of soil to dissolve the fertilizers, hydroponics fertilizers, which are different from soil fertilizers, are required to be soluble in water.
Your nutrient solution is responsible for the tasks the soil would have been responsible for. These responsibilities include providing nutrients, providing oxygen, dissolving fertilizers, and maintaining EC and pH levels.
Hydroponic fertilizers are either liquid or dry/powdered. Liquid fertilizers are direct to use and cheaper, but they are pricey when it comes to transporting them over to your farm. Dry fertilizers can be easily transported in large quantities at fair prices, but they require more effort in deciphering their usage.
You must formulate a nutrient solution that can supply all the necessary nutrients to your plants. Measuring hydroponic nutrients for a nutrient solution is usually more difficult than measuring fertilizer requirements for soil growing.
Light sources become a germane structure of your hydroponic garden when you chose to practice indoor hydroponics.
Outdoor hydroponic growers source light from the Sun, so they don’t need to worry about providing light to their plants.
Plants have varying lighting requirements. Growers usually resort to using hydroponic light bulbs to provide light to their plants. Hydroponic bulbs vary in price, life span, and light intensity.
You should go for a lighting system that excellently imitates natural light. Your light source should provide light bright enough for good growth.
Hydroponic bulbs are usually specific in importance at different levels of growth.
For hydroponics, high-pressure sodium bulbs and metal halide bulbs are very good replacements for light from the sun. They are also good choices for growing vegetables.
If you have multiple plants in your garden, you should ensure that the lighting system matches the needs of all your plants.
pH up & pH down and Electrical Conductivity meter
As you prepare your nutrient solution, it is also important that you monitor the pH and EC levels of your nutrient solution. Usually, the soil would provide buffers to regulate pH and EC levels, but this responsibility is yours when growing hydroponically.
The amount of hydroponic nutrients that should be in your hydroponic solution is usually influenced by the EC level of your solution as the EC value of your nutrient solution must match the requirement to grow your plant.
EC meters are popular among growers to monitor and stabilize the EC value of their nutrient solutions.
The pH Up & pH Down is a solution used to increase or decrease the pH of a nutrient solution. You could also use a pH meter to check the pH of your nutrient solution.
You should evaluate the composition of your nutrient solution every day by keeping tabs on the EC and pH values of your solution daily.
One of the most appealing features of hydroponics is its economic use of even little spaces for growing when compared to soil farming, but then, many farmers are likely to over-utilize this feature by clogging their plants together.
Spacing describes the physical distance required between plants to enable their undisturbed individual growth. Research has shown that plant spacing plays an irrepressible role in the yield of plants. Poor spacing limits the availability of air and light to plants.
Usually, the vegetative and root parts of plants are the areas concerned with spacing.
For root development, the reason plants growing in the soil extend their roots is because they’re in search of nutrients, water, and oxygen.
Since these resources are readily available in nutrient solutions, plants do not feel the need to extend their roots to get these things again.
This means plants will demand less root space in turn, which prompts the roots to healthily interlace.
Hydroponic plants focus their efforts on increasing their vegetative parts instead. Usually, plants do this to increase the amount of light energy that reaches them.
This in turn causes plants to demand more space for the growth of their vegetative parts like their branches, flowers, and leaves.
The amount of spacing you give plants for vegetative growth should be based on your projection of your plant’s size as it grows and when it matures.
Growing crawling plants on a stake is another way to ensure sufficient spacing among plants.
Experienced hydroponic growers advise a spacing of 16-32 inches between plants not more than 3 feet in height.