If I talk about growing plants or crops, the first image that pops in our mind is a beautiful landscape, soil and plants growing with the support of mother earth. Fast forward it to the 21st century, where every little detail of our lives is becoming digital and evolutionary, why not farming? Hydroponics is one such revolutionary concept which is contradicting the traditional image of cultivation of food.
What is hydroponics?
Growing plants without soil, by providing them support through a different medium can be defined as hydroponics in the simplest terms possible. The essential elements required by the plants (light, water, nutrients etc.) to flourish are provided artificially in a water based medium. The roots of plants can be supported by various substrates such as cocopeat, vermiculite or perlite which have a good water holding capacity. As we all know that plants are also living things just like us, so they require oxygen to breathe. Usually they fulfil this requirement with the help of air and soil, but when growing in close chambers, they depend on the water or artificial supply of oxygen just like a fish tank!
What about nourishment?
We all talk about consuming a balanced diet, or food full of nutrients. Similarly the small plants also need essential elements to grow. In a hydroponic system these nutrients can be provided through salts which dissolve in water or through pre mixed nutrient mixtures.
Maintaining optimum environment of the system
Just like we need an optimum temperature and ambience to perform our best, plants need it too! For a good harvest and healthy plants, the pH should be maintained between 5.5-6.5. You can buy pH testing kits online easily. Weak acids such as vinegar and acetic acids can be added to lower the pH of water. Proper aeration should be provided in order to circulate carbon dioxide for efficient conduction of photosynthesis. Fans should be installed for replacing the hot and dry air with fresh air.
Switching to hydroponics has become the need of the hour as it allows us to grow any type of food anywhere. With the rise in population and industrialization, there is very little scope for increasing the agricultural land. Hydroponics provide a perfect solution to this problem as it does not require a fertile land, specific climatic requirements and not even soil. Not only this, surprisingly hydroponics consume less water and require less inputs as compared to traditional farming. Isn’t this amazing?
We hope that this information gets you excited about adopting hydroponics and its long lasting benefits for us as well as for the environment.
There are many instances in our lives where we see a garden or our neighbours growing their own vegetables or salad greens and we have the urge to do the same. But then reality hits and we realize that optimum space is not available in our house to carry out such an activity. But there is a solution to this problem and that is vertical hydroponics.
Vertical hydroponics is nothing but a modification of hydroponics where plants are cultivated in a soil less culture but sacked in trays or shelves on top of each other. Imagine a tall building with different floors which are occupied by different tenants. The building is the outer structure, different floors are the different levels at which plants are grown and the tenants represent the variety of crops that can be cultivated. In earlier times the houses consists of single storey but as the land started becoming scarce, multi storey houses came into picture. Similarly plants also need to be cultivated utilizing the vertical space.
Maintaining a vertical system
The maintenance of a vertical hydroponic system is more or less similar to the normal one. The same principles of nutrient management, sunlight hours, water supply, pH etc. are to be followed. Supplying water in a closed circuit is always a better alternative. In vertical hydroponics you can exploit the force of gravity. The water can be pushed down from the top and the force will keep the molecules moving. And just like that you will save water as well as energy. In a vertical tower the plants need to be planted at an angle of 45o approximately. This gives plant sufficient space to flourish and exposure to light is also more efficient at this angle. The water needs to be replaced after 15-20 days. Till then with the help of proper nutrients and pH balancers you can continue to recycle the same batch of water.
The only issue in vertical hydroponics is that plants which require large spaces to grow and have a higher vegetative growth cannot be fit into this system. It is best suited for salad greens, leafy vegetables or microgreens. These plants can be supported using substrates like coconut fibres, peat moss, perlite or vermiculite.
I can assure you that cultivating crops on your own within a limited space is possible by paying attention to some minor details. It is very easy to learn hydroponics and once you get acquainted to it, you will continue to experiment and get better at it!
If you’re someone, who is really interested in understanding different Gardening Concepts in depth, check out our ebooks, click here!