What Is Hydroponics?

Unless you’ve been on another planet for some time, you know that it is growing without soil and most likely not done outdoors – unless you live in the tropics. Sounds pretty simple, but there is a lot more to it than this. Something every new indoor gardener faces is the world of confusing growing systems to sort out.

Will the real hydroponics system please step forward! They are all hydro, but some of them are more complex than others. So before you listen to that sales guy at the grow shop who wants to sell you the latest technological advancements, you probably should remember that its best to learn to walk before trying to sprint. The more complex things are, the harder you’re going to find it to succeed and more difficult to figure out what you might have done wrong. The most important part of conquering a new skill is learning from your mistakes so you don’t repeat the same blunder. Additionally, the goal here is to grow your own food – not play with space age gadgets. There will be plenty of time for that later on.

Are you adamant that your fruits and veggies be ‘organic’? Then the best system for you is aquaponics using a flood and drain technique. You’ll find some great directions on building your own system inexpensively on one of last week’s posts. This will keep the technique simple and allow you to learn how to succeed without a huge investment. Do add grow lights though, sun from a window will not be sufficient for a great harvest, even if it is a south facing window. Amending available sunshine will help you feed yourself.

If its fine that your food is pesticide and weed killer free, then your best option is what is known as ebb and flow or flood and drain. They are the same type of system and replacing the fish with a nutrient reservoir changes the technique, but not the equipment so much. There are passive flood and drain systems and those that operate by an electrical pump. If you live where the electrical has a habit of going out often, the passive system that operates off of gravity is your best choice. Additionally, this will cut down on the operating cost of your indoor garden both in energy use and start up costs.

Besides your growing system, you do need to invest in meters and lights. Don’t cut corners here. They are critical to your success and will actually make your garden more efficient. At the very least you need:

  • Humidity and temperature meters
  • A pH meter
  • A EC meter
  • A light meter

You could use the same system that NASA does in space and fail miserably without the proper meters and spending sufficient time in your garden. Plants require certain conditions to thrive and create a bumper harvest. Provide the environment the crops you choose to grow loves and you’ll be an awesome indoor farmer.

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Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine

Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.