Hydroponics is growing to be the future of gardening and cultivation. But why? Well, that is actually surprisingly easy to answer: because you can grow anytime and anywhere. Do you want to grow herbs and greens, but don’t have a large space outside to grow them? Hydroponics can help you. Do you live in a place like South Dakota where it dips below freezing for months at a time? Hydroponics can help you.
Hydroponics is the process of growing plants in a medium that is not soil, unlike traditional growing methods. There are various hydroponic systems that use different methods, but ultimately work towards the same goal. Let’s take a look at what they are, and what some of the benefits and detriments are.
Deep water culture is considered the simplest hydroponic system available. Plants are grown in pots with slits in them, usually called net pots. These pots allow the roots to grow out of the pot and hang down outside. These pots are then suspended above a reservoir of water and nutrients, making sure the roots become partially submerged allowing them to absorb water and nutrients from the reservoir. These pots are also filled with substrates, such as perlite, rockwool, or pumice, that the plants grow in and through instead of traditional soil.
Keeping the water aerated can be done through two different methods. Active aeration involves an air stone that releases tiny bubbles, but that requires an air pump. Passive aeration can be done by leaving a gap between the lid, from which the pots are suspended, and the top of the water. The air can still flow above the water, and because the roots shouldn’t be fully submerged, they will absorb this air.
One of the largest benefits to this type of system is that it is cheaper than most of the other systems. However, the other systems will usually produce higher quality plants more rapidly than deep water culture systems.
Ebb and flow systems instead grow plants in substrates in a tray instead of pots. The water and nutrients are in a separate reservoir, and a pump pushes this solution through tubes, and it flows through the tray, feeding the plants. The solution then travels through drain tubes back into the reservoir, or if the tray bottom is porous, it can be placed on top of the reservoir and allowed to drain into it naturally.
The benefits of this system include automation, series of timers are set to deliver plants exactly how much water and nutrients they need when they need it. The downside is that if there is a malfunction, such as the power going out or a pump stops working, your plants will dry out quickly
Nutrient film systems involve growing plants in channels with the idea being, similar to deep water culture, giving plants access to water and nutrients constantly. The water is pumped through these channels by pumps, in a rather shallow manner keeping the roots only partially submerged so that they take only what they need. This type of system is easy to create on a large scale, and the channels are angled downward letting gravity do most of the work.
Drip systems, much like nutrient film systems, utilize a continuous flow of water. Instead of a channel however, the water flows through a hose system that has holes placed along with where your plants are. This allows water to slowly drip into the roots of your plants, providing them with the water and nutrients they need to grow.
Having the right equipment for your type of grow is essential. Different plants have different requirements, and unfortunately there isn’t enough room to get into all of them here. However, if you stop by our store, we will be glad to help you design a system perfect for your space and your plants. Our team here at Black Hills Cultivation & Supplies is determined to assist the growers of Rapid City anyway we can.
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Probably the most important but often overlooked part of hydroponics are the nutrients needed to grow without soil. Many gardeners, farmers, and growers know that plants need nutrients. Usually, with the water and fertilizer we give them is enough. This is not the case in hydroponics. Soil contains many of the nutrients that your plants need, and you will need to find a way to get these to your plants another way.
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