What Is Hydroponics?
There are plenty of misconceptions surrounding the term ‘Hydroponics’.
So, before defining what hydroponics is, it is helpful to define what hydroponics isn’t.
A ‘catch-all’ term for indoor gardening – although it is a superior indoor gardening method
Growing plants under high intensity lights – but it is certainly suitable for this
Genetically modifying crops – although crops will yield significantly more than with traditional growing methods
So, what is hydoponics?! Put simply, hydroponics can be defined as; growing plants without using soil.
Plants are supported in an inert medium, for example a rockwool cube, and are fed a nutrient solution. This nutrient solution contains all the elements a plant needs for healthy growth and so, rather than concentrating energy on searching for nutrition, the plant focuses all its energy on foliage and flower growth.
The plant takes as much or as little nutrient from the solution as it needs.
Growers that cultivate hydroponically have full control over their plants development. By feeding different levels of essential elements at different stages in the plants life cycle it is possible to accelerate root development, stimulate – or slow – vegetative growth, and then trigger and enhance flowering.
As well as constant availability of water and nutrient, plants grown hydroponically also have an abundant supply of oxygen to their roots.
Hydroponic growing medium such as clay pebbles, coco or rockwool have an open structure that provides a highly oxygenated root zone and hydroponic techniques such as NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) and Aeroponics are essentially ‘bare rooted’, leaving plant roots open to absorb as much oxygen as possible.
This constant supply of oxygen, nutrient and water accelerates plant growth and leads to increased yields.
Passive and Active Hydroponics Defined
Hydroponic systems can be characterised as either ‘active’ or ‘passive’;
Active hydroponics is the technique where nutrient solution is actively delivered to the plants roots via a pump, whatever the plants do not use simply drains away.
No absorbent growing medium is necessary in active hydro; this allows an abundance of oxygen into the root zone. The constant supply of oxygen, water and nutrients leads to optimum growth and yields.
Passive hydroponics is the technique where nutrient solution is constantly made available to the plant via the capillary action of the growing medium surrounding the roots, there is no pump involved.
Although much more effective than traditional growing methods: passive hydro relies on absorbent growing medium and this limits the amount of oxygen in the root zone.
Growers looking for a simple introduction to hydroponics and the next step up in performance from hand watering pots and trays should try passive hydro.
Growers looking for the maximum growth and yield possible should always choose active hydro.
The Benefits of Active Hydroponics
- Faster growth rate and bigger yields – majority of a plants energy is concentrated on foliage and flowering.
- Harvest sooner – get more crops per year.
- Water Efficient – no waste run off in re-circulating hydroponic systems.
- Reduced chance of over or under watering – plants take as much or as little as they need.
- Clean and minimum waste produce – a major benefit for indoor cultivation.
- No soil bourne pests – reduced chance of disease and reduced use of pesticides.
- Ultimate control over plant development – specifically tailor the feeding schedule to the plants growth cycle.