There are many different farming techniques and technologies out there these days, and almost all of them depend on soil. With the ever-declining fertility of lands on a global scale, now is the time we should think about the techniques to rebuild it or learn to grow without it. Like, Hydroponics. Even we, Sprouting Farms, have a hydroponic greenhouse.
So what is hydroponics?
Well, basically, it is soil-less growing. It is fast becoming one of the most trendy ways to garden indoors. From Pinterest with mason jar gardening to full-on production and urban micro-greens farmers. Just about all of us have grown something in a hydroponic greenhouse. Do you remember that time in elementary school when you used that ziplock bag and a damp paper towel to grow bean sprouts? Yes. That was a simple version of hydroponics!
Hydroponic plants are grown with a mineral and nutrient-enriched water solution, rather than in the ground or container with soil. The roots grow directly into the water solution, or they grow with a medium like perlite, vermiculite, or even gravel. The way the plants grow will depend on the type of hydroponic system.
There are six basic systems, categorized as either active or passive, and then sub-categorized as either recovery or non-recovery. There can be any combination of these systems, and each variation has its benefits and drawbacks.
We chose the Nutrient Film Technique(NFT).
NFT systems are super-efficient but a bit more difficult for the new grower to fine-tune. When planting in this system, there is no growing medium to hold any moisture. As such, it can be very unforgiving. Any prolonged interruption in the nutrient flow and the roots could dry out, and the plants could suffer and possibly die. This system takes care and research to set up but is excellent for large scale growing.
We will also be adding a few more systems shortly and will let you know which ones we choose.
What are we growing in our hydro house, you ask?
Well, lettuce for now. We are growing it year-round to go into our local school systems, helping our partners Turnrow and the Greenville Farm Kitchen. We hope to expand the lettuce varieties very soon.
Hydroponics has several advantages over soil gardening — the growth rate for one. A hydroponic plant can grow 30-50 percent faster than a soil plant, developed in the same conditions. Because the nutrients are sent directly to the root system, the plants don't have to search for the nutrients that they require; they expend very little energy to find and break down food. All that saved energy helps the plant grow faster and to produce more fruit. Bonus-Hydroponically grown plants tend to be healthier and happier plants, as well. Happy plants mean happy people.
Two, these systems are space savers. They can be set up even in a small apartment. With the root systems of the plants getting ample nutrients, they don't have to spread out, so planting much more closely to one another is possible.
And thirdly, hydroponic gardening systems are also beneficial to the environment. They use considerably less water than soil gardening (Hello! They are continually reusing of the nutrient solutions). With fewer problems with bug infestations, fungus, and disease, fewer hydroponic crops require fewer pesticides, and polluted soil is never an issue or worry. And, topsoil erosion isn't even an issue because why? Hydroponic gardening systems don't use topsoil! Though, if conventional agricultural practices continue to erode topsoil and increase wastewater, hydroponics may soon be our only solution.
Should you grow Hydroponically?
That all depends on you. If it's something you are interested in learning about and you have the time to take it on, we say go for it. Just know, it will be a bit of an investment to get started, and you will need to do some research on the system, growing mediums, and nutrient solutions that will be best for you.
Whether you are an experienced hydroponic grower or just a beginner, there is a system that will work for you in a myriad of price ranges and required skill levels.
Have questions about getting into Hydroponics?
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