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Gardening Without Getting Dirty Welcome to Hydroponic Gardening

Feb 27, 2008
To many people the idea of growing plants is a crazy concetpt. Hydroponic gardening has been around for thousands of years and many small farms have begun to embrace this method of gardening.

In its simplest form, hydroponic gardening can be envisioned as a plant stuck through the top of a glass canning jar with its roots covered with fertilized water. Despite how simple a hydroponic garden setup can be, there are many ways in which you can accomplish the same task, it all depends on the size of your hydroponic setup.

Here are some example methods of a hydroponic setup:

1) Static - In a static hydroponic setup the plants are grown in a container of nutrient solution this setup is most common in homes were the plants can be grown in glass jars with just enough of the root outside of the solution so it can get oxygen.

2) In its simplest form, there is a tray above a reservoir of nutrient solution. The tray is either filled with growing medium (clay granules being the most common) and planted directly, or pots of medium stand in the tray. At regular intervals, a simple timer causes a pump to fill the upper tray with nutrient solution, after which the solution drains back down into the reservoir. This keeps the medium regularly flushed with nutrients and air.

3)In continuous flow solution culture the nutrient solution constantly flows past the roots. It is much harder to automate than the static solution culture because sampling and adjustments to degree and nutrient concentrations can be made in a large storage tank that serves potentially thousands of plants.

In traditional gardening, the soil works as a storage reservoir for all the fertilization needed by the plants. The soil holds in the nutrients, releasing them to the roots as needed while in hydroponic gardening the hairs of the plant's roots can sip at the nutrient rich water at any time they need something to eat.

Healthier, Larger Fruit Produced In Hydroponic Gardens
When plants are growing in soil, the roots typically grow larger than on plants in hydroponic gardening. This allows the part of the plant above the soil, or in this case, out of the water, to grow larger and the fruit it bears to grow bigger.

Most plants grown through hydroponic gardening are larger, bear more fruit and have a better taste and texture than the same plants grown with tradition gardening methods.

Here are some examples of the mediums that are used in a hydroponic garden:

1)Expanded Clay - Also known as 'Hydroton' or 'leca' (light expanded clay aggregate), trademarked names, these small, round baked spheres of clay are inert and are suitable for hydroponic systems in which all nutrients are carefully controlled in water solution. The clay pellet is also inert, pH neutral and do not contain any nutrient value.

2) Rockwool - Is probably the most widely used medium in hydroponics. Made from basalt rock it is heat-treated at high temperatures then spun back together like candy floss. It comes in lots of different forms including cubes, blocks, slabs and granulated or flock.

Rockwool is an excellent inert substrate for both 'free drainage' and recirculating systems. In free drainage or run-to-waste systems, the chance of disease spread is greatly lessened. Rockwool is also lightweight and self-contained, which allows plants to be grown at different densities in different stages - young plants can be grown to an advanced stage in a small area before being planted out into the main growing area, thus improving crop turnaround.

3) Coir - Coco peat, also known as coir or coco, is the leftover material after the fibres have been removed from the outermost shell (bolster) of the coconut. It took 10 centuries to make this waste a viable plant substrate. The first description of the coco process dates from the 11th century and was recorded by Arabian traders.

In 1290, Marco Polo described the process of extracting fibres from coconuts. For centuries, this process remained unchanged. Coco peat was a waste product from factories that used coco fibre as a raw material for making sailing ropes, chair seats and mattress fillings.

With static immersion, the roots are below the water level on a constant basis, with the water changed about once a week to maintain fertility in the hydroponic gardening.

With continuous flow, the water is constantly changed in the growing tank, with fresh nutrients continually available to plant roots and with ebb and flow, fresh water is supplied to the growing tank where it slowly drips away into a reservoir from which it is recycled back to the growing tank.
About the Author
Benjamin P Brookes runs a blog on all areas of gardening at http://www.free-gardening-tips.com
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