A complete guide to Hydroponics
Introduction to Hydroponics
Plants can easily become root bound, which prevents them from growing normally, when they are planted in soil. This problem is eliminated through hydroponics because plants have more room to grow and develop properly.
In addition, growers can control temperature and humidity levels through hydroponic gardening and ensure that all of their plants receive proper amounts of light and nutrients.
Hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture, the method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent.
Terrestrial plants may be grown with only their roots exposed to the nutritious liquid, or the roots may be physically supported by an inert medium such as perlite or gravel.
The nutrients used in hydroponic systems can come from an array of different sources; these can include but are not limited to byproducts from fish waste, duck manure, or commercial fertilizers.
Hydroponics is also a way for people who do not have land to grow food in cities. Plants can be grown indoors over water (aquaponics) with fish providing nutrients.
Hydroponics provides plants with optimal access to oxygen and nutrients giving them everything they need for rapid growth.
The theory behind hydroponics is that the plant can grow faster and larger by using all of its energy on above ground growth rather than spending energy looking for nutrients in the ground.
In this Guide, you will get to know about the following things
- What is the need for hydroponics?
- What are hydroponic Nutrients?
- Plants’ Nutritional Needs?
- Soil Nutrient availability?
- What are the Chemicals Does the Plants Need?
- When choosing plant chemicals, keep the following factors in mind?
- Importance of temperature and water quality in hydroponics?
What is the need for hydroponics?
The world’s population is growing and so are the needs. Sooner rather than later, it will be impossible to meet these needs in terms of resources and space, especially when it comes to food production.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to increase the amount of arable land available. The world has lost 1/3rd of its arable land in the past 40 years due to erosion or contamination.
Every year 12 million hectares disappear and 75 billion tons of fertile soil are lost because of erosion, all due to agricultural activities.
This is where hydroponics comes into play! Hydroponic farming can take place everywhere, even in urban areas like a basement or an attic! Even better, it can be used for any type of plant: vegetables, fruits and flowers.
What are the Chemicals needed in growing hydroponic plans?
Plants need certain chemicals to survive. Some of these chemicals are necessary for photosynthesis, the process by which plants make food. These chemicals include carbon dioxide, water and light. Other chemicals are necessary for growth, metabolism and other plant processes.
Plants require 17 essential elements for normal growth, development and reproduction. Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen are available from air and water. The remaining 14 elements are available from the soil or must be applied as fertilizers.
The 14 essential nutrient elements can be divided into three groups: primary macronutrients, secondary macronutrients and micronutrients.
Primary nutrients are required in large amounts by plants and include nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Secondary nutrients are required in lesser amounts by plants; they include calcium, magnesium and sulfur.
Micronutrients are required in very small amounts by plants; they include boron, chlorine, copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), zinc (Zn) and others.
What Are Plant Nutrients?
The main element of plants is their nutrients and what’s found in the water that helps feed your plants. These nutrients are usually salts or minerals that contain nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, which are essential for plant growth.
Most gardeners buy these nutrients pre-mixed and ready to use, but others mix their own solutions using a variety of ingredients. Adding additional elements like calcium or magnesium may help specific plants grow better.
Plant nutrients come with instructions on how much to use on the bottle and those instructions must be followed exactly. Too much or too little of a single nutrient can cause problems with your plants.
Plants’ Nutritional Needs
Plants need six main nutrients to grow: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, magnesium and calcium. They also require other minerals zinc, iron, copper and more to build structures such as the proteins that make up their bodies.
Nitrogen is a key ingredient in the formation of chlorophyll, the chemical in leaves that captures sunlight for photosynthesis. It’s also an essential part of amino acids that make up proteins. This makes it important for leaf growth.
Potassium helps with water uptake and the movement of sugars through plants’ tissues. It strengthens stems and helps plants resist diseases.
Sulfur is a component of some proteins and vitamins. It aids in nitrogen fixation and many chemical processes within plants’ cells.
Magnesium is essential for photosynthesis; it combines with carbon dioxide to form chlorophyll molecules in leaves’ cells.
Calcium plays a role in cell structure and nutrient transport throughout plants’ tissues.
Soil nutrient availability
Several variables influence nutrient availability in soils, including soil texture (loam, loamy sand, silt loam), organic matter content, and pH.
Soil clay particles and organic matter are chemically reactive, holding and slowly releasing nutrient ions that plants can use.
Soils with a finer texture (more clay) and a higher percentage of organic matter (5-10%) can contain more nutrients than sandy soils with little or no clay and organic matter.
Water brings nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and sulfur below the root zone, where plants can no longer reach them, making sandy soils in Minnesota more prone to nutrient losses through leaching.
The alkalinity or acidity of soils is measured by its pH. Chemical reactions in soils can change nutrient availability and biological activity when pH is too low or too high. Most fruits and vegetables thrive in soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.0, which is slightly acidic to neutral.
There are rare exceptions, such as blueberries, which require a low pH. (4.2-5.2). The pH of the soil can be changed by adding minerals such as lime (ground limestone) to raise the pH or elemental sulfur to lower the pH
When choosing plant chemicals, keep the following factors in mind.
Some of the most popular chemicals used in the ag industry are not necessarily the best choice for your particular needs. The choice of which chemical to use when is often a matter of trial and error, but here is a list of some factors to consider when choosing the best plant chemicals for you:
- Cost – how much it costs compared to other chemicals.
- Availability – where you can find them.
- Effects on plants – what effect they have on plants, whether they are active, what they actually do to plants.
- Storage stability – how long they last.
- Purity – how pure the chemical is.
- Compatibility– Compatibility with other materials around them (sprinklers, fertilizer etc.)
- Environmental impact – if it affects animals or people instead of only plants.
- Easy of use – How easy it is to apply.
Importance of temperature and water quality in Hydroponic
Temperature is a major factor in the success of a hydroponic garden. Plants that are grown at temperature extremes won’t perform as well. If your plants are too hot it can cause them to wilt and die, while if they are too cold they may grow slower than usual or stop growing altogether.
Most plants like a temperature range between 65°F and 75°F during the day and between 60°F and 70°F at night. Warm-season vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers thrive in this range, so you’ll get good results with these types of plants. But you can also grow cool-season vegetables like lettuce, cabbage and broccoli in this temperature range.
To grow any plant successfully, you must provide a daytime temperature that is 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the nighttime temperature. This diurnal (day & night) temperature swing promotes good growth by allowing the plant to rest at night when it’s not photosynthesizing (making food from light).
Hydroponic growers can have a really hard time with quality water, especially when they’re getting started. People often think that because “water is just water” it doesn’t matter much. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you use tap water or distilled water in your hydroponics, you’re wasting both time and money.
There are a variety of factors which impact the quality of your water, including pH, hardness or alkalinity, chlorine content and contaminants such as metals, chemicals or other minerals. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 (more acidic water being higher). A pH of 5 is neutral.
Our Final Verdict
Understanding how hydroponic nutrients work allows you to understand the basics of how to use them in your growth and how to troubleshoot any problems. Understanding soil nutrients is just as important, but for a different set of reasons. The right nutrient feeding schedule, whether you are using hydroponics or growing with soils, is the single most important factor of what the plant eats into growth.