Hydroponics is the cultivation of plants in a water based nutrient solution rather than in soil.
In the early to mid twentieth century Professor William Frederick Gericke of California introduced the term hydroponics for this method of growing plants. The word is of Greek origin and is the combination of hydro & ponos or water & labor. It essentially means working water.
Documents show that people have been practicing hydro-gardening techniques for thousands of years. Plants grow where all of the nutrients supplied to it are suspended or dissolved in water. The sides of rock cliffs, the tops of limbs of large trees, the floating gardens of Lake Titicaca, or the hanging gardens of Babylon; all are examples of Hydroponics.
Plants need light, water, nutrients, and support to grow well. Hydroponics systems provide three of these four necessities. In a soil based growing system plants extract nutrients from the soil by way of water, while the rocks, sand, and heavy particles provide support. In a hydroponics system plant nutrients are mixed with water and delivered directly to the roots of supported plants. The different support systems and water delivery methods define the many typical hydroponics systems.
Types of systems:
Hydroponics systems are typically of two varieties, solution culture and media culture. They are defined by what the roots of the crop are growing in. Plants grown in solution culture have their roots suspended directly in a nutrient solution, while the roots of plants in media culture grow in any of the available growing mediums. Nutrient film technique (NFT), aeroponics, and deep water culture (DWC) are common solution culture systems. Recirculation and drain to waste are the common media culture systems.
Media Culture Systems:
Media Culture systems are defined by the roots of the crop growing in a medium. Recirculation and drain to waste are the common media culture system varieties. Recirculation type cycles nutrient solution to the plants and back to a reservoir in a loop, it can be delivered continually or intermittently. Drain to waste systems flow nutrient solution to the plants and then to waste, (or reuse in another place like your house or bedding plants). Buckets, bags, troughs, and trays are the common media containers. Some of the types of media used in these systems include perlite, rocks, expanded clay, peat, and coconut fiber.
Drip systems provide water to the top of the roots, often near the base of the plant, where it flows over the roots, through the media, and out the bottom. They can be continuous or cycled flow. Media that dries out quickly may be better with continual flow, and media that retains water could be cycled.
Ebb and flow systems provide the nutrient solution to the plants roots from the base of the container. They cycle between ebb (low/no water) and flow (high water) like the tide of the ocean rising and falling. During ebb the solution is in the reservoir and the pump is off. During flow the nutrients are flowing to the plants and the pump is on.
Drain to waste systems are the simplest hydroponics systems, it seems more like a method. Nutrient solution is mixed batch by batch as required and run through the growing medium and roots out of the container to waste, or reuse. Many house plants are grown like this. All of the fruit and nut trees started at Growfresh are grown in containers with soilless medium and maintained with the drain to waste method.
Solution Culture System:
Solution Culture systems suspend the roots of plants in nutrient solution.
Nutrient film technique uses a shallow stream of nutrient solution flowing over the bare roots of plants in the bottom of a channel or tube. A portion of the roots are always exposed to the air thus providing an ample oxygen supply.
Aeroponics systems suspend the roots of plants in a tube or covered channel and mist them with nutrient solution. They are usually recirculation systems that can be operated continuously or intermittently.
Deep water culture maintains a deep channel, tank or bucket of oxygenated nutrient solution into which the roots of the plants are suspended or submerged. Some systems keep the plant and root ball above the nutrient solution in a mesh basket while others have the basket secured in a raft of foam. Some use water pumps to circulate the nutrient solution while others use only air pumps.
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