Hydroponics is a form of plant cultivation that involves the use of water without soil. In Latin, the term ‘hydroponics’ translates to ‘working with water’. Without soil to hinder the plant’s roots, the water provides an abundance of hydration, nutrients, and oxygen to promote robust and rapid growth. In this article, you’ll learn all about hydroponic systems, how it works, and how you can grow everything from delicate orchids to watermelon.

The Benefits of Hydroponic System

Everyone wants an easy, hassle-free farming method that provides results.

The benefits of building hydroponic system includes:

•   Requires only minimal space

•   Uses 90 percent less water

•   Offers the ability to garden year-round even in areas with harsh winters

•   Promotes rapid growth rate in half the time of conventional farming methods

•   No chemical weed or pest control needed

Nowadays, with much of the world suffering from historic droughts and water conservation being implemented in many regions, hydroponic gardening has quickly gained popularity and is now being used by not only home gardeners but also large scale commercial cultivation operations.

The History of Hydroponics

If you feel skeptical about the ‘new’ growth method, then you’ll be happy to learn that hydroponic gardening is not a modern discovery. It has been used for centuries with phenomenal success.

The famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which are considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, are an early example of the hydroponic cultivation method. The mighty Euphrates River was diverted into man-made channels to force the water to cascade down the garden walls to nourish the plants. Also, the great explorer Marco Polo wrote about the floating gardens of China.

In the 1990s, NASA grew bean seedlings in zero gravity on the space station using hydroponics. The triumph of the project revealed that sustainable gardening was achievable in space.

Hydroponics: How it Works

Using a hydroponic grow system, plants, vegetables, and herbs are grown in an inert growing medium. They are then supplied with a hydroponic nutrient solution, water, and oxygen. The roots of plants grown in soil spend a great deal of time and energy pushing through the soil medium in search of nutrients and water. However, plants grown with their roots experiencing direct exposure to water and nutrients no longer needlessly need to waste energy and can instead redirect all growth efforts towards maturation. The leaf growth of hydroponically grown plants is accelerated as is the production of flowers and fruits.

All plants rely on photosynthesis for growth which is the ability to harness sunlight with their foliage. They then use the sunlight’s energy to use the water molecules that they absorb with their root system to produce carbohydrates for nutrition. Plants do not need soil for any part of this process. With hydroponic system, the plant gains its water and nutrients when they are placed around the plant’s root system either via immersion, flooding or misting.

Controlling Hydroponics

Hydroponically growing plants give you the ability to control all aspects of the environment such as temperature, pH balance, hydroponic nutrient solution, and water. You can provide the plants with exactly what they need to flourish. With a hydroponic nutrient solution, you can give the plant exactly what it needs for every stage of its life. Everything is closely monitored and adjusted so you control and customize the entire process. With environmental tweaking, you can eliminate a wide array of risk factors that could potentially negatively impact health and growth.

Conventional growth methods of plant cultivation are fraught with risk factors. The soil can act as a vector for disease and fungus. When grown outdoors, wildlife can plunder your garden. Pests are also a nonstop battle. However, with a hydroponic system, you can grow your plants indoors and keep them safe. You can also cultivate your plants without pesticides to create a healthy, high-quality crop that is completely chemical-free.

Hydroponics with Fish

Some hydroponic aficionados are taking things a step forward and trying their hand at aquaponics. Aquaponics combines aquaculture (the process of raising fish) with hydroponics. As history has taught us, plants and fish can coexist very nicely in a hydroponic environment and form a symbiotic relationship. The waste from the fish provides nutrient-rich organic food for the growing plants. The roots of the hydroponically grown plants then filter the water for the fish to create an environment for aquatic life. The naturally-raised fish become an ideal organic food source plus your veggies and herbs are cultivated free of any harmful chemicals. Combining hydroponics with aquaponics takes organic farming to a new and impressive level.

Fast-Growing Hydroponic Plants

If your interest in hydroponics is piqued, then why not pick a few plants to try out the system? You don’t need a lot of space to hydroponically grow so you can easily do it in your home or apartment.

Fast-growing hydroponic plants include:

Lettuce

Who doesn’t enjoy a crisp salad? Lettuce is one of the easiest plants to grow with a hydroponic system. Bibb, butter crunch, or Romaine are choices that take only three to four weeks to grow from seed to harvest. Head lettuce (iceberg) also grows hydroponically but it will take about eight weeks to yield results. With leaf lettuce, you can remove only the plant’s outer leaves so you can gather fresh lettuce daily or as needed.

Spinach

Popeye would love hydroponically grown spinach because you can obtain a large harvest all at once or you can continue to cut leaves from the plant every week for months. It takes only 14 to 20 days from seed to harvest. Spinach grows great in a hydroponic system in your home where you can maintain the temperature between 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 30 degrees Celsius).

Mint and Spearmint

Whether you like chewing a spearmint leaf or adding a sprig of mint to your tea or lemonade, you can enjoy an endless supply of the wonderfully fragrant and flavorful leaves when cultivating with a hydroponic system. It does take a little effort to grow mint and spearmint from seed but once established the plants truly flourish in the water-based environment and are a favorite for aquaponic systems.

Blueberries

Blueberries grown in soil are notoriously fickle. They like highly acidic conditions to thrive. Luckily, with a hydroponic nutrient solution, you can effortlessly give them exactly what they need to flourish while controlling with pH levels. Imagine having fresh blueberries every day! Not to mention, when grown hydroponically the berries are bigger and the crop production greater.

Now that you have a general idea of hydroponics, how it works, and the easiest plants to grow using the water cultivation method, why not give it a try? You can truly grow the garden of your dreams indoors with minimal space and effort.