How Does Hydroponics Work Anyway?

Home gardeners everywhere are getting into the latest trend called hydroponics, but just how does hydroponics work? It’s a lot simpler than you might think, once you see the basics. For the beginner to hydroponics, it can look pretty daunting and scientific, but in reality it’s not that complex.

Remember, plants need three things to thrive: water, nutrients, and sunlight. Hydroponics is just a more straightforward way of supplying all three of these things without the need for soil. This way of gardening has two main benefits: smaller space required and less water used. Because the soil is not needed to house the plants, space is saved and the water the soil would normally “wick” away is not removed, thus requiring less water overall.

This means that hydroponics can be used to grow plants nearly anywhere, so long as those three things can be supplied. So oranges can be grown in the Arctic and tomatoes can be grown in a closet. This is the main reason so many scientists are interested in hydroponics.

So, how does hydroponics work?

Have you ever grown alfalfa or other sprouts, even on a Chia Pet as a kid? If so, you’ve grown plants using hydroponics. That’s the most basic form of hydroponic growing. Growing plants in that way is called Ebb and Flow or Flood and Drain irrigation: the water/nutrients are put in at regular intervals and then drained off again to carry away the wastes.

In a more complex (and larger scale) hydroponic garden, this same system can be used with a nutrient base diluted in water (sprouts have their nutrients as part of the seed pod, unlike most other plants). This solution is sent to the plant roots either continuously or periodically.

Two types of systems are used to hold the plants and circulate the solution around them: solution culture and medium culture. The two are roughly the same with one exception. In a solution culture, only the solution is present and the plants are suspended with their roots in the solution while in a medium culture, some type of media is used to hold the plants in place and circulate the solution through their roots.

Basically, this means there’s either pure solution or a soil replacement for the solution to move around. No medium means the plants must be suspended by wires, nets, or other means. Using a medium means the plants have something to “root” to.

The solution-only method is often more controlled (as far as solution goes), but means more labor per plant as each must be set into place individually on a suspender. The media-method requires less work per plant, since roughly traditional planting methods work, but requires more effort for maintenance as most media types need cleaning or replacement between crops. hydroponics wholesaler

For home gardening, the medium method is most common and the most common types of media are rock wool, expanded clay, and gravel. Each of these types of media have different advantages and disadvantages, including weight, disposability, and how they affect a nutrient solution.

The nutrient solutions used are either hand-mixed by the gardener or purchased as pre-mixed solutions that need only to be diluted in water. The second type is most common, of course, since it’s much easier and doesn’t require a lot of schooling in chemistry to use. These solutions are purchased online, via mail order, or at local gardening shops.

So, once you’re ready to start trying hydroponics, what will you need to know about how does hydroponics work? Basically, a larger garden system will be built in this way:

A garden bed will be created with a tray, dish, or tub with a drain at one end and an input for solution at the other (either pouring into or over the plants). The bed is then filled with the medium of choice and the solution circulation is built-for home systems on a smaller scale, this is often manually operated. Plants are planted into the media and the solution is mixed and added to the circulation system. If the system is automated, then that’s basically all that’s required excepting the periodic draining off and adding of new solution and water to replenish the nutrients.


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