If you’re the green-thumb type, you’ve probably heard of hydroponics. You may not know much about it, though — even if you’re a gardener who’s interested in the possibilities of hydroponic farming. So here’s an overview of what hydroponics is and how it works that can help you understand why this growing method has potential for gardeners everywhere.

Hydroponics vs. Traditional Gardening

What is hydroponics? At its essence, it’s an indoor growing technique that uses water instead of soil. This has benefits for both commercial greenhouse growers and home gardeners.

Commercial growers who use traditional gardening techniques have to prepare the soil before planting their seeds or seedlings. Then, when they do plant, they can’t be sure that the soil is rich enough to sustain plant growth until harvest. If it isn’t, they have to apply fertilizers and nutrients regularly to ensure their plants thrive.

With hydroponics, you eliminate both of these problems. You can start growing as soon as you set up your system because there’s no need to prepare the growing medium. In addition, the folks at hydroponics supplier Progrow tell us you don’t have to worry about making regular nutrient adjustments because hydroponics systems recirculate the water while you grow.

Benefits for Home Gardeners

When home gardeners use traditional gardening techniques, they need access to good soil and a place where they can dig in it — two things not all of us have. Even if you have a garden or a yard, you’ll have to spend time and energy preparing it for planting. And that’s before you even plant your seeds.

With hydroponics, on the other hand, all you need is a source of electricity, some light, and perhaps an exhaust fan, depending on how big your system is. Of course, you can use your existing garden plot, too. That’s why many people who like to grow plants indoors are turning to hydroponics — it uses less space, and you don’t have to deal with soil-borne diseases or pests that often plague traditional gardeners.

Types of Hydroponic Systems

There are two main types of systems for home and commercial hydroponic farmers: mineral and recirculating. Mineral systems provide the nutrients your plants need with mineral-based solutions such as calcium nitrate, calcium carbonate, or potassium hydroxide. You apply these directly to the water solution and allow it to evaporate before you add more nutrient solution to the tank.

On the other hand, recirculating systems use an inert medium such as clay pebbles or volcanic rock to anchor your plants. First, you add water and nutrients directly to the tank or tub that holds this medium. Then you pump the nutrient solution in a loop between the tank, where it percolates through the growing medium to nourish your plants’ roots, and the reservoir, where it’s held until you pump it back into the tank.

Is Hydroponics Right for You?

If you’re interested in hydroponic farming, whether as a commercial or hobby farmer, there are several factors to consider before you begin. First, determine what kind of growing environment your plants need. Some plants need a humid, tropical climate; others prefer a dry, desertlike environment.

Second, you’ll need to decide how much money and time you want to invest in your hydroponic system, as well as what size system is appropriate for you or your business. Finally, consider the type of nutrients you want to use. Remember that mineral systems may be more cost-effective in the long run because you add nutrients directly to the water solution.

By Rob