Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in mediums other than soil. Hydroponic gardening uses the same principle, i.e. growing vegetables in gardens without soil. Hydroponic gardens are more efficient than conventional gardens as they are not dependant on seasonal growing factors. Such gardens are evergreen and can be cultivated as per the gardener’s preferences. Hydroponic gardening is a specialized art and is a bit more demanding than soil-based gardening
Hydroponics Growing Considerations
You need to decide the kind of vegetables that are to be grown. The nature of vegetables determines the kind of hydroponics system used.
- If you want to grow green vegetables like lettuce, the raft system can be used — it uses a floating plank to keep the plants afloat.
- For high-water content vegetables like tomatoes or cucumbers, the Dutch Bucket system is advised — it is a bit elaborate and exhausting.
- The Drip-Ebb system is regarded as the easiest of hydroponic systems — it uses a pump for recycling water and nutrients around the plant roots.
You also need to determine the growing medium. Some common hydroponics growing mediums are:
- Vermiculite (for ornamental flower gardening only)
- Sand (not-so-common for vegetables)
- Coconut fiber (its use is slowly increasing)
- Water (most common medium for vegetables)
You will also need to take nutrition into account. Hydroponic vegetables have very specific nutritional needs. They are fed plant nutrients at precise intervals. This plant food is also called hydroponic nutrients. They are a bit like organic fertilizers added to soil beds. However, these nutrients should have some very specific features:
- Nutrients should have the exact amount of a particular micro or macronutrient that is recommended in accordance with the growth phase of the plant.
- Nutrients should dissolve readily in the growing medium and should be readily absorbed by the roots.
- You cannot use conventional, commercial fertilizer preparations for feeding hydroponics garden, as they don’t exhibit the above properties.
- Use just two-to-three seeds to get started. Wrap the seeds in a cube of rock wool.
- Place the wrapped seed in a clean container. The container should contain a small amount of water to dampen the cube but not submerge it.
- You will have to wait for the seeds to sprout.
- Once the seedlings sprout, add about one teaspoon of the chosen plant nutrient in the growing medium.
- Allow the seedlings to absorb the nutrition for about two-to-three days.
- Transfer each seedling in small net pots. A standard net pot measures around 2-to-3 inches.
- Place each of the net pots within the chosen hydroponics system.
- Add the remaining plant nutrients in the hydroponic system, i.e. in the growing medium.
- Check the pH balance with the pH meter. The reading should be between 5.5 and 6.5
- Keep adding more nutrients in the system, every two weeks.
- If you are using water then it should be drained out, every three weeks. Other mediums like vermiculite are changed at monthly intervals.
- The nutrient level has to be adjusted according to the growth phases, like maturing or flowering.
- Check the roots — they should look inflated along with a white hue. A slight yellowish tinge is also acceptable. Thin roots mean lack of proper oxygenation.
- Pruning is needed for a few vegetables like tomatoes. Their lateral shoots and older leaves have to pruned every week.
- The vegetables can be harvested in a manner similar to harvesting in soil gardens.
Hydroponics Growth Pattern Manipulation
- Maneuvering Through Pinching — the yield of plants can be increased by simply pinching along the branch tips. This helps is splitting one branch into two or more branches. This helps to make the plant bushier and grow more horizontally rather than use-up vertical space.
- Maneuvering Through Nutrients — growth patterns in hydroponic vegetables can be controlled by manipulating the amount of macronutrients like sodium, phosphorus and potassium. Increasing/decreasing the amount of these nutrients means controlling the tissue and root growth along with managing plant vigor.
Follow this guide, and enjoy the delicious results of vegetable grown through hydroponic gardening!