The global agricultural sector has experienced tremendous changes in recent years, with farmers trying out different methods to improve crop production. One technique that deserves special mention is hydroponics.
Here is a breakdown of everything you need to know about this farming technique.
What is hydroponics?
Hydroponics simply refers to soilless farming. This gardening method involves growing crops in a mineral-rich, nutrient-based solution, instead of soil.
To ensure your crops receive the right nutrients, you have to alter the solution to adapt to the plant needs. You can add potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, calcium, and other minerals to the solution to ensure healthy growth.
Since there is no soil to anchor the plants, you have to support the roots of the plant using other media such as gravel, perlite, clay pellets, and substrates.
Using coco coir for your plants can also help you provide them with these nutrients.
Hydroponic farming is becoming more popular among farmers mainly because they can grow any type of plant and get healthier and bigger yields.
The best plants to grow on a hydroponic farm include lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, and spinach.
Besides, hydroponics gardening takes up less space when compared with traditional soil farming.
Does hydroponics use less water?
Hydroponics uses 20% to 95% less water than traditional agriculture, yet this farming system depends entirely on water instead of soil. The difference with conventional agriculture is that the water used to irrigate the earth is bound to evaporate or runoff. This is particularly true when irrigating large fields.
Conversely, the water in hydroponics is captured and recycled over and over again. The closed-loop recycling conserves water by up to 95% than traditional farming, making hydroponics one of the most water-efficient methods of farming.
What is even more intriguing about hydroponics is that it uses less water than the much-touted drip irrigation.
Vertical Farming also is a good form of farming to reduce water consumption.
Does hydroponics affect soil formation?
Hydroponics has no effect on soil formation since it does not require soil to grow plants. In fact, hydroponics aids in the formation and improvement of soil quality because it leaves the soil intact.
Traditional farming methods accelerate soil loss by exposing it to wind and water. They also affect soil fertility since you have to add fertilizers and pesticides to improve plant growth and keep weeds and pests at bay.
Do hydroponic tomatoes taste good?
Hydroponic tomatoes taste just as good as other tomatoes grown on normal farms. However, the taste may differ from soil-grown tomatoes, depending on the environment in which they are grown.
The main advantage hydroponics farmers have over traditional gardeners is that you can determine how your tomatoes will taste by controlling the temperature, heat, light, and humidity of your hydroponics garden.
Make sure your tomatoes have access to natural sunlight and check on water quality to ensure appropriate pH balance. You can also add organic nutrients to your tomato farm for a more enriching and tasty flavor.
Is hydroponics a type of horticulture?
Many agriculturalists consider hydroponics to be a type of horticulture since they both involve the cultivation of crops like flowers, fruits, and vegetables in controlled environments.
Then again, horticulture requires you to prepare the soil by adding nutrients, organic matter, and water to make sure the plants get the right minerals they need as is the case with hydroponics. Moreover, both methods of cultivation do not involve large-scale crop production.
The only notable difference is that horticulture entails growing plants in soil unlike hydroponics, which does not require soil.
How long do hydroponic tulips last?
The lifespan of hydroponic tulips is about one week. However, this depends on the type of tulip, and the temperature of your hydroponic environment.
Although tulips have a chilling requirement of about 12 to 15 weeks, you do not have to wait that long. You can get pre-chilled tulips from your local market and place them in your hydroponic container or a vase filled with mineral-rich water.
The ideal temperature for blooming should be between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Once they bloom, they should last for about a week provided the temperatures are right. Most importantly, avoid exposing the flowers to too much heat as this will reduce their lifespan.
Why does hydroponics grow faster?
According to research, hydroponics plants grow 25% to 50% faster than traditionally-grown plants (under the same conditions). This is because plants in a hydroponic environment receive all the nutrients directly into their root systems. They do not require symbiotic relationships with other soil organisms to obtain minerals and absorb water.
Moreover, hydroponics plants do not need to expend energy in search of nutrients. The extra energy reserved instead goes to upward leaf growth.
Since hydroponics farmers have control over temperatures, light, heat, humidity, and other key growing conditions, they can influence how slow or fast their crops grow.
You may want to check What Houseplants Need A Humidifier?
Is hydroponics better for the environment?
Hydroponics is good for the environment because:
- It involves growing plants without soil, thus preventing erosion
- It reduces the use of pesticides, chemicals, and synthetic fertilizers
- It conserves water
- It saves space, thus allowing fields to be utilized in other ways
- It reduces fossil fuel use
- It preserves soil quality
- Crops grown hydroponically are healthier than traditionally-grown plants
The downside of hydroponics is that it destroys the symbiotic relationship between plants and other microorganisms found in the soil. Moreover, it creates some form of imbalance in the plant ecosystem.
So, what next?
Hydroponics is no longer a dream, but a reality. Urban farmers now have more reason to smile as far as producing great-tasting fruits and vegetables is concerned.
One major benefit of joining the hydroponics bandwagon is that this farming technique does not require much space. You can start your hydroponics garden on the rooftop of your apartment or even on your balcony.
Besides, hydroponic systems use less water than traditional gardening, meaning you shouldn’t expect outrageous water bills at the end of the month.
With 50% faster plant growth, 95% water efficiency, fewer chemicals, and bigger yields, there is no reason why you shouldn’t try hydroponic farming this year!