Archive for September, 2011
The agriculture industry is ever evolving with new inventions and technologies to grow plants more efficiently. Increased urbanization has led to scarcity of arable land. In such scenario, growing plants with a technique that can sustain changing weather conditions, and give maximum yield in lesser space is a must. Hydroponics farming is one such technique which will meet the aforementioned criteria. It is a method of growing plants using nutrient solutions, in water, without soil.
History of hydroponics farming:
In the 18th century, researchers discovered that plants absorb essential mineral nutrients as inorganic ions in water. They realized that soil is mere supporter and carrier of nutrients but is definitely not an essential factor in plant growth. The same nutrients when dissolved in water can be efficiently taken in by the plants. This led to the invention of a technique called Deep Water Culture hydroponics. However, surprisingly, the very earliest published work on growing terrestrial plants without soil was the 1627 book, Sylva Sylvarum by Francis Bacon, printed a year after his death. Water culture became a popular research technique after that.
Hydroponic farming can be performed with the help of various hydroponic systems. Each system has its own principle, mechanism, set of nutrient media, and lighting system. The most famous hydroponic systems are Ebb and Flow, Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), Drip Irrigation, Wick System, and Aeroponics.
Ebb and Flow system involves temporarily flooding the grow tray with nutrient solution and then draining it back in to the reservoir. In case of NFT, nutrient solution is pumped through growing tray or growing tube and it flows over the roots of the plants. Drip irrigation follows mechanism of using timer controlled submersed pump to flow nutrient solution and water into the container. Wick system, as the name suggests, uses capillary action of cotton or nylon wicks to provide nutrients to plant roots. In case of aeroponics, too the primary growth medium is air. The roots hang in the air and are misted with nutrient solution.
Advantages of Hydroponic Farming:
- With hydroponic farming, plants can be grown anywhere.
- Hydroponic systems can be monitored by you completely and so you get a better control over plant growth.
- It is a space saving, less time consuming method and automated systems require much less labor work than that of the traditional farming methods.
- The chance of soil-borne disease is largely reduced with hydroponics as it is a soil-less culture system, thus the need to fumigate is much less.
Disadvantages of hydroponic Farming:
- Starting cost to set up a hydroponic system is quite high.
- Sound technological knowledge and professional guidance is needed to perform hydroponics farming successfully.
- Systems like NFT, Drip irrigation and Aeroponics are dependent on electric supply and power breakdown can cease working of the entire system. This can put plants’ health and lives in jeopardy.
Traditionally growers have germinated seeds and cuttings in a jar. That was hydroponics in its simplest form! Hydroponics is not only fun for people but, in some regions of the world, the only way of fulfilling their gardening desires. Indoor hydroponic growing not only provides the plants with all the nutrients required for growth but also shields them from extreme climatic conditions. Roots are generally very dense in hydroponics and well-developed roots translate to healthy plants. You can use a hydroponic bubbler for directly feeding your plants’ roots the things they require most like water, nutrients, and oxygen, that too effectively. Many average gardeners, who often use more low-tech methods of hydroponic gardening and plant propagation, have used simple hydroponic bubbler system to aerate the nutrient solution. When plants get what they want, you get the best out of your plants year round, flowering and fruiting longer than if they were growing on soil outside.
Hydroponic bubblers are used in water culture system wherein the plants are placed directly above aerated nutrient solution. However, one bubbler system is distinct from the other depending upon the nature of water culture employed; the basic concept remains the same. Economical hydroponic bubblers are very simple to construct and easy to use. It makes use of plastic net cups, air tubes, buckets and lids that you can find at any nearby store. You would also need some air stones or an ordinary aquarium aerator pump. Apart from these, you would require growing media like rockwool or perlite.
First, cut a hole at the centre of the lid of a bucket according to the size of your grow container making sure the net pot should fit comfortably. This is done so that the roots can easily draw water through the holes. Now place the aquarium pump at the bottom of the bucket, which acts as a reservoir, and adjust the water pump rate. Tape some air tubes to the sidewalls and let it reach to the top of your bucket. Carefully set your plants into your net pot filling it with grow medium and then shift it to the cut holes in lids. Fill the reservoir with water and organic nutrients according to the mentioned directions and place this whole system where plants can receive appropriate light.
With these hydroponic bubblers, you can grow all different types of plants in your hydroponic system, from flowers to cucumbers to strawberries. You would need some elementary supplies, little time, and loads of enthusiasm for creating your own beautiful hydroponics garden.
Hydroponics means growing plants without soil in an aqua-based medium. There are various techniques and systems with which hydroponic plants can be grown such as Deep Water Culture, Ebb and Flow, Drip System, Nutrient Film Techniques, and Wick System. Each of the hydroponics systems has its own technique to provide plants with water, food, and oxygen. We will discuss in detail about Wick Hydroponics Systems in this article.
This is a passive form of hydroponic system in which, plants are kept in a separate container. They do not have direct contact with the nutrient reservoir. Around three to four (or more, depending on the size of container) wicks are made of absorbent fibrous material like nylon rope or cotton. One end of these wicks is partially buried in the container where plants are grown while the other end is kept dangling into the nutrient reservoir. With the help of capillary action of the wick, nutrient solutions is absorbed and carried to the substrate/growth media where plants are grown.
How to set up homemade wick hydroponics systems:
Get two storage totes and several feet of nylon rope. Use an air pump to oxygenate nutrient solution. Keep one tote over the other. Use bottom one as nutrient reservoir and top one to hold plant containers. Drill ½ inch hole beneath each plant container and allow nylon rope to hang down from there to the nutrient reservoir. Use 50/50 mixture of perlite and vermiculate as media in plant containers to wick water and nutrients from nylon rope.
- Compact arrangement makes wick hydroponics systems best suited for small garden spaces.
- It is very easy to set up and requires no professional guidance.
- This system requires minimal cost and gives highly efficient results in terms of flourishing and well-nourished plants.
- Because of the wick action, nutrients and water reach plants at a constant rate and there is no threat of over watering or over fertilization of plants.
- Many plants do not grow well when provided with water constantly. Roots of raspberries and pepper tend to decay if the media is not dry for some period of time.
- Supply rate of nutrients with the wick is way too slow for bigger and faster growing plants like cactus, aloe, and roses.
- Because of constant moist and humid conditions, this hydroponics systems is susceptible to rot and fungal infestations.
Keeping all the advantages and disadvantages in mind, one thing cannot be denied that wick hydroponics systems is ideal for beginners as it is not very expensive and is relatively very simple!
There are three main types of hydroponic lights: Incandescent, fluorescent, and high-intensity discharge (HID). Incandescent lights are not usually preferred by growers. They are found to be inefficient and have poor and limited spectrum range. HID grow lights, on the other hand, provide more light and are more efficient. But the downside of HID grow lights is that they produce more heat. They are more expensive and require high end digital ballasts to operate them. Hydroponic equipments which require more investment are generally not favorites amongst growers.
Greenhouses and solar rooms make use of natural sunlight to provide light to the plants. Having an open window in the grow room can help with this. However, some of the aeroponic plants require no contact with outer atmosphere and in such cases using artificial light source is a better idea.
Remember that generally 1000W will adequately penetrate about 16-25 square feet of plant area. Using hydroponic equipments like a reflector/ light mover can work wonders for indoor lighting. If you are looking for a smaller garden and a cheaper option for lighting, you can go for compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL bulbs). Although they don’t produce much stronger light, they are useful for hobbyists and small scale growers.
All the hydroponics systems require maintenance and care. See to it that your glowing light bulb doesn’t come in contact with water or it will blast. Also, take care that your ballast regulates electric current properly or else if the bulb is ‘slammed’ with too much power at once, it will lead to short- circuit. Remember that light is one of the most important factor in plant growth and choosing the right light source for your indoor garden will work wonders!
It’s a myth that in order to enjoy the taste of succulent, fresh, juicy fruits, you need to possess a big fertile backyard garden with favorable climatic conditions. In fact all you need is to be little wise in choosing and planting fruit trees. It’s not magic; any fruit plant, which has the right equilibrium of water, nutrients, sunlight and aeration, will grow healthily and build up natural resistance against insect pests and diseases. Depending on the space available and the climatic zone in which you live, you can narrow your choices for growing fruits that you like to eat. This would enhance your gardening interest and will give you minimal disease problems with a better yield. If you’re in tropical areas, you can grow carambola, gooseberry, papaya, etc. If you’re in sub-tropical areas, you can try your hands on jaboticaba, cherry, passion fruit, strawberry guava, etc. If you’re in temperate areas then try growing apples, blueberry, hazelnut, peach, plums and many more. If you’re growing in Mediterranean regions, then opt for figs, grapes, mulberry, or pomegranates.
With the advent of indoor hydroponics, space availability, soil conditions, and climatic conditions are no more a hindrance for your fruit garden; but as a dedicated grower and a fruit lover, you would have to ensure that all the nutrient and oxygen requirements of your fruit trees have been met and the trees are growing stable. With hydroponics, you can completely control your grow room environment, and simulate the weather conditions required to grow your favorite fruit. In a hydroponic garden, where the fruit trees are grown in a soilless nutrient medium, you would need to choose from the plants like bananas, lemons, and avocados that grow well in a hydroponics systems, and adjust the nutrient conditions right according to fruit type. If you’re facing problems with fruiting, please take care of the following:
- Check whether the pollination requirements are met. Give them proper support to enable them grow vertically.
- Keep a check on pests and other disease causing pathogens
- Choose the dwarf varieties and multi-grafted fruit trees so it doesn’t take much space and gives you maximum yield with range of flavors to enjoy.
- Make sure that you place proper grow lights, which emit light of appropriate wavelength as fruit trees need very balanced natural light to process nutrient, get energy, and give out that excellent eye-catching color that you love.
Remember, there is always room for at least one fruit tree in your limited, inner city courtyard or in your room or may be balcony, if you have longing for a vivacious fruit tree in your heart.
Gone are the days when people were ignorant of what lies inside their favorite vegetables and how they were grown. Now urban population is becoming more vigilant about their family’s health and their own. All thanks to organic farming and hydroponics, which are surging like adrenaline rush in the urban society. I guess we all might have enjoyed at some point have enjoyed homegrown fresh veggies that tasted heavenly. But with time as more and more arable land was transformed to concrete jungles, gardening at least in the traditional form no longer seemed to be a feasible option. The need was to adopt newer techniques where we can grow our favorite fruits and vegetables in a simulated grow room or greenhouse.
With the prevalence of hydroponics, it has become easier for those people who not only love growing vegetables but also want to give a chemical-free diet to their dear ones. Hydroponic vegetable gardening, a convenient mode of growing plants in a soil less medium, plants are grown in a nutrient medium or using root zone media for anchorage and absorption. The nutrient solution gives your plants the required nutrients that they would otherwise find in soil.
Hydroponic vegetable gardening requires less space, is pesticide free, and crops can be grown all year round. You don’t have to worry about the fluctuating temperatures as you can carry out your hydroponic vegetable gardening indoors. Hydroponic gardening is not climate dependent. Just because it’s winter, you need not let go of the opportunity to grow the tomatoes you love so much, lovingly sun-drying them later to use in warm offerings of food. You no longer have to spend time worrying about the right season and the right weather to grow your crops in. Hydroponic gardening liberates you from all those hitherto unavoidable natural factors that prevented you from growing your choicest crops throughout the year.
However, you need to do some in-depth groundwork before you begin with your own hydroponic vegetable gardening. Here are some pointers which will be helpful:
- Check out your complete commercial supplies for nutrients, organic nutrient sources and mineral elements that your plants need.
- Supply your plants with organic substances needed in human nutrition, storage methods and find out about pests damaging specific vegetables.
- Gather some other valuable information like recommended temperature ranges, seed propagation, cultivating seedlings, harvest timing and methods, pruning, inter-cropping, suggested gaps between plants in gravel culture, and significant growing factors.
- Create your own vegetable layout diagrams for every season with two cyclic orientations of plants towards the sun for each season. Preplan space to be allocated to each plant and draw an outline of where each vegetable plant should be set and when.
After completing all this basic research work, get to setting up your hydroponic vegetable garden and start assembling and growing your desired plants. Then you can both sit back and enjoy watching your beautiful, fresh veggies growing healthily or you can make plans to how you are going to sell this huge yield and make handsome profits !
Pole beans are a favorite amongst many farmers, hobbyist gardeners and hydroponic growers. If provided with adequate amount of nutrients, water, light, and proper plant care, then you can get green, tall and healthy pole beans.
To grow pole beans, follow the steps mentioned below:
Preparation of site: Pole beans tend to grow vertically and thus you will need climb up poles or homemade teepees to support their growth. Select site in such a way that teepees do not block the light from reaching other smaller plants in your garden or grow room. Soil is to be tilled well and raked smooth before planting pole beans.
Selection and plantation of poles : Poles on which you want to grow beans should be of one to two inch in diameter and should have rough surfaces. If you wish to go for a less costly option, then teepees style supports are great for your plants. However, avoid using fencing wire or other horizontal wires as they tend to cause the vines to get tangled with each other and this affects their growth. Place the poles such that group of four poles point inwards (to form a cone). Use a twine to bind the poles together where they intersect.
Sowing Seeds: Once the poles are placed properly, sow six to seven seeds around each pole. Do not over-crowd the soil patch in the greed of getting more and more vines because they need enough space to climb up. Once you have sowed all the seeds, cover them with an inch thick layer of soil.
Plant Care: Like any other plant, beans too require gentle care. Provide them with fertilizers externally if required. However, do not over fertilize the plants, especially with nitrogen rich fertilizers because in such cases the plants just grow tall without bearing any produce. Beans grow exceptionally when soil/hydroponic media are rich in organic nutrients. Keep watering your plants at regular intervals. In case of pest infestation use appropriate pesticide and take care that your plants get enough light.
Harvest: Pole beans usually mature in 60 to 90 days. Once the beans are fully grown and ripe, it is time to harvest them. Best way is to harvest them with hands. Make sure you do not rip out or disturb any vines in the harvesting process.
Pole beans require a good set-up for them to grow healthily. Proper plant care and attention towards minor details like avoiding straying of vines, provision of light, removing damaged and yellowed leaves etc will give you, healthy pole beans.
General hydroponic growing can be lot more fun than soil gardening but as a grower you still have to be extremely alert with the problems which can silently creep into your garden. Initially all hydroponic growing systems seem trouble-free but you never know the problem can be hidden in the root zone and are evident once the leaves start to grow pale. These problems go unnoticed and before you realize the ensuing problem, it’s usually too late.
If you take a closer look, you would discover that the prime reason behind an unsuccessful hydroponic enterprise is because of sheer negligence from the grower. Stated below are five simple factors that we should take care to be successful in the long run:
- Nutrients: As a responsible grower, are you aware about the nutritional requirement of your plants at different stages? Are you ensuring that you are providing them with the best nutrients at the right time? If yes, then chances are that you might not encounter nutrient deficiency in your plants. If no, then get ready to lose all the sweat. Your plants need good amount of nitrogen during their vegetative phase but more of phosphorus during flowering or blooming stage. Ensure that your leaves aren’t going pale and yellow due to lack of nutrients.
- Moisture: Maintaining proper moisture levels in the growing environment and adequate watering are lifelines for any general hydroponics technique. Under watering can cause charring of leaves whereas overwatering can lead to root rot and formation of unwanted organic material. Low humidity levels can lead to discoloration, dry and rough edges in the young leaves whereas, over humid conditions can direct stunted bud development and root formation in stems. Hence, keeping a balance is important.
- pH: If your nutrient supply is proper and well balanced and still you are facing nutrient deficiency, then it’s time to check the pH in your nutrient solution. Closely monitor the pH levels. Maintaining a pH of 5.6 is best for general hydroponics nutrient solution.
- Temperature: Make sure you are recording the temperature at regular intervals in your grow room and ensure that it should never go below fifty degrees Fahrenheit. Excess heat can hinder root development, whereas leaves will begin to curl and cup when it is too cold.
- Pathogens: Nematodes, fungus gnat larvae and algae utilize the nutrients, plant roots and favorable environment rendered by growers to cause great harm. You can prevent and control all these possible parasites before they become severe and deteriorate plant growth.
Preempting these problems and planning for proper checks and balances is imperative for growth in your hydroponic garden.