Hydroponics is the method of growing plants without soil. The plants thrive on the nutrient solution alone. The growing medium merely acts as support for the plants and their root systems, and perhaps to hold moisture around the roots. The growing medium, if any, is often totally inert.
Not at all - As long as you follow product directions and keep to a few simple regular steps your plants will thrive. Once a gardener gets used to the routine you will be amazed at how simple it is. Often, a gardener will wish to develop the hobby into a more complicated set up or system
No soil means there are no weeds or soil borne pests or disease. Plants will be able to achieve the optimum nutrient and moisture levels in the hydroponic system, this has several advantages: healthier plants, faster growing plants, and more resistant plants as they will not become stressed though lack of water or nutrition. The root systems will stay smaller in hydroponically grown plants; the plant will concentrate on developing plant mass and the desired produce or flower; this can result in 30% faster growth. This will also enable the grower to have more plants in a given area. Hydroponically grown plants never get root bound, so will rarely need repotting. As hydroponics is clean, it can easily be used indoors or in spare room as well as a greenhouse or conservatory.
Anything can easily be grown hydroponically, but some make more sense than others. Plants we recommend are; tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, hot chillies, lettuce, chard, cucumbers, courgettes, broccoli, beans, snow peas, herbs, as well as all types of flowers and house plants. Banana and tobacco can be easily grown also, even in the UK !! Root crops such as potatoes or carrots are more difficult to grow hydroponically and are less cost effective due their low price in the shops.
Many people are concerned about pesticide residues. Recent reports indicated that a third of all conventional fruit and vegetables bought at supermarkets contained pesticide residues. A typical soil grown lettuce will have been treated with an average of 11 pesticide applications before it reaches the shops. Even with organic produce there is no guarantee of a pesticide free product; some 70% of the UK sold organic produce is imported from overseas, often from countries where the controls and rules differ from the higher standards found in the UK. The only GUARANTEED way to ensure you have pesticide free produce is to grow your own and therefore be in control of all inputs yourself. To feed yourself or even a family year round will only be feasible using hydroponics where the productivity of the plants are much higher.
Overseas there are a number of 'hydro-organic' growers who produce and sell high quality and high value organic produce. In the UK, organic and hydroponic growers have historically viewed each other with suspicion and the two growing methods were at one time thought to be incompatible. Even now some UK organic bodies take this view. However, more and more growers, and more importantly the public, realise that as long as the produce is fresh, pesticide free and healthy it makes little sense to stick to the historical position. With full spectrum organic nutrients now available, such as Earth Juice and others, hydro-organics is now a reality with an ever-growing number of converts.
You will be surprised how inexpensive it is to set up a hydroponic system. Just browse this website to see the various options available to you and ask your local hydroponic retailer for advice and pricing options.
Yes ! The plant is receiving everything it needs, and therefore tends to be healthier, faster growing and generally more productive.
Definitely, perhaps even better. Most commercially grown crops are grown to look good, travel and store well for shelf life, not for flavour. When you grow your own plants hydroponically they are receiving all the nutrition they need, you will be amazed just how good they do taste.
Generally, the level of pest problem will be less than soil grown crops for reasons already stated. However, if pests do become a problem you can choose to use insecticidal soaps, spays such as Neem Oil with natural pyrethrums and even beneficial predator insects that are now widely available. All of these controls are completely safe to use on edible crops and are also environmentally benign.
There is no simple answer to this question as different mediums are more suited to different systems or plants. In summary: Stonewool, such as Cultilene stonewool, will enable the gardener an easy set up as it is pre-formed and modular. Stonewool holds a lot of water and acts as a buffer against drying out in the case of a system or pump failure.
Stonewool slabs may be used in hand water systems, drip systems and even flood and drain. Stonewool cubes can be used in Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), drip feed and flood and drain also. Stonewool will maintain a 60/40 water to air ratio which helps with healthy root growth. For starting seeds and cuttings Cultilene Stonewool is the preferred medium. For hobby growers Stonewool is generally used for one crop only.
VitaLink Clay Pebbles are a clay, kiln fired pebble that is completely inert and sterile. Each pebble is round, lightweight and will hold a small amount of nutrient between irrigation cycles. It may be cleaned and sterilised and can be used again and again. VitaLink Clay Pebbles are the preferred media for pot based flood and drain or drip systems.
Coco Coir is a relatively new media to the hydroponic market. CANNA Coco Coir is environmentally friendly and has many converts in hydroponics. Tends to be used in drip feed systems. Coco Coir must not be used in re-circulating systems and needs a special nutrient formula. Perlite and Vermiculite are two lesser used hydroponic mediums. They tend to be smaller in actual size and therefore can block pumps and systems.
Perlite is a great hand watering media which provides good aeration for the plants but holds little moisture. Vermiculite does hold moisture well but tends to offer less in the way of aeration. As a result these two media are often mixed in a 50:50 ratio.
Finally some systems are media less, such as NFT. In terms of media, these are the most cost effective systems as they may only need a few 2.5cm (1") stonewool starter cubes. However, as there is now no media to buffer either the plant or the system the plant will be at risk from pump failures, fluctuations in temperature or uneven watering. Although plant growth is excellent with these kinds of systems, we would suggest that the newer hydroponic grower starts off with a media based system in the first instance.