April 14, 2016

Beginner’s Guide to Hydroponics and Growing Mediums

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Hydroponics system

Advantages of hydroponics

Growing plants using a hydroponics system offers various advantages over conventional soil-based techniques. Plants grown in hydroponics systems have increased growth rates, which are 30-50% greater than plants grown conventionally in soil. Hydroponically grown plants also produce greater yields.

Why is hydroponic growing more efficient and effective?

Basically, plants benefit from increased oxygen supplies via the hydroponic growing medium. This provides enhanced stimulation for the plants. Also, the direct delivery of essential nutrients to the root system of plants in HYDROPONICS contributes to their enhanced growth and yield. This means that the plant has no need to search for these essential nutrients in the soil, as in conventional farming, and the energy saved through the easier breaking down of its food source is effectively redirected to cell multiplication, improved growth, and greater yields. Generally speaking, plants grown hydroponically also suffer less from parasites, funguses and other common diseases – overall, the plants are healthier and visibly of better quality.

The wider benefits of hydroponics

There are also various environmental benefits related with hydroponic growing systems. Water consumption is much less than that required for conventional growing due to the fact that the nutrient solution is recycled continuously. Conventional growing techniques also require far greater use of pesticides and chemical-based fertilizers than hydroponics. As hydroponics does not require the use of soil – there are no issues such as top soil erosion as can occur with traditional growing methods. Overall, hydroponics is a clean, efficient and eco-friendly technique for the cultivation of flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Different hydroponic growing mediums

The growing medium serves to support and aerate the root system of the plants and direct the nutrient solution supplied to the plants. Each growing medium has its particular attributes and optimal performance is achieved in different hydroponic growing systems.

For example, expanded shale, which is a rapid draining growing medium, works extremely well in ebb and flow hydroponic growing systems, and can be reused several times. Rockwool is another commonly used growing medium. Part of its popularity is due to the fact that it is able to hold 10-14 times the volume of water compared to soil, and its air retention is also impressive, at 20%, which makes it easy to use in almost all hydroponic growing systems. One thing to bear in mind is that most growers find rockwool cannot normally be reused, unlike expanded shale.

Vermiculite, perlite and varying grades of sand are also commonly used as growing mediums in hydroponic systems. They provide good stability and have minimal effect on pH levels of the nutrient solution. However, they tend to hold more moisture than other mediums and so should be used with plants which are not over sensitive to moisture. Vermiculite, perlite and sand cost less than many other growing mediums and work very well in wick-based hydroponic systems.

While many growing mediums will work well in almost any hydroponic system, for optimal results the type of plants to be grown and type of hydroponic system should be carefully taken into account in order to select the most appropriate growing medium.

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