Hydroponics is a form of gardening that does not depend on soil to grow plants. The word hydroponics comes from the Greek words “hydro” (water) and “ponos” (work). In hydroponics, plants are grown in a solution of nutrient water, without soil.
Hydroponics is the oldest form of gardening and has been used as far back as ancient Greece. The Greeks constructed an artificial cave in which they grew grapes. When the Romans conquered Greece, they discovered this method and brought it to Italy. The term hydroponics was first coined by scientists in the 20th century.
In a hydroponic garden, the roots of plants are not exposed to soil and they receive water and nutrients through their leaves or via root-shoot channels. The nutrient solution is generally enriched with oxygen for better growth and health of the plant. But since plants absorb oxygen through their leaves, there is no need for extra oxygen in the solution.
The basic concept of hydroponics is that plant roots thrive only in a nutritious medium, such as soil, sand or mulch. But if you could provide your plant with just the right water and nutrient mix, it would grow equally well without soil; this is called hydroponic gardening.
One of the greatest advantages of hydroponics is its speed. Since there is no need to wait for seeds to germinate, or for seedlings to establish themselves in soil before they can grow, you can have a harvest ready in weeks rather than months. Further, since your plants aren’t tied down by roots in the ground, you can move them, or the entire garden, around with ease.
Although there are several commercially produced systems for hydroponics available on the market today, you can also create your own system easily and inexpensively. The basic components of a home-made hydroponic system include an enclosed growing chamber to hold water and solution; a pump to circulate the solution; and a means of automatically dispensing the water and nutrients to your plants.
One of the easiest ways to set up a hydroponic system is by using an aquarium. Just be sure it has a cover so that you can control what goes in and out (you don’t want fish, snails or other small creatures getting into your garden). Also be sure that the aquarium is large enough to grow your plants; depending on what you want to grow, this could be as small as a 10-gallon tank or as big as a 50-gallon tank.
Since soil is not used in hydroponic gardening, you need some way to anchor your plants so they don’t fall over. The simplest way to do this is with either plant stakes or net pots .
Another important component in a hydroponic garden is the growing medium, which should be inert (it won’t break down) and porous (so it will hold water). Good choices are perlite , rockwool or gravel . You can also use a good quality potting soil blended with perlite or vermiculite .
You’ll need some kind of tub or bucket to hold your nutrient solution. Any container that holds water will work just fine; plastic is easiest to clean and sterilize, but you can use glass instead if you prefer. You’ll also need a way to add nutrients to the water; this could be as simple as a supply of fertilizer tablets, or you may want to set up your own garden-friendly nutrient solution.
For optimum growth, your plants need oxygen in the water along with nutrients and moisture. If your aquarium doesn’t have an air pump included, you’ll need to buy one. We hope that this helps you get started with using a hydroponic garden now that you know more about how to set one up and how it works.