Hydroponics gardening is the science of growing plants using mineral solutions without soil. A plant\’s basic requirements are nutrients, water, light and oxygen. Derived from the Greek words hydro (water) and ponos (labor), the earliest published work that discussed growing terrestrial plants without soil was the Sylva Sylvarum, published in 1627 and written by Sir Francis Bacon.
Today, hydroponics is very much part of agronomical science. Hydroponics provides growers with higher crop yields, and is a system that can be used in areas where traditional agriculture is not possible, such as deserts, rocky and stony land in mountainous districts or barren and sterile areas. Hydroponics is also beneficial for those of us who do not have huge garden space. It allows us to grow fresh vegetables and fruits in window-boxes or on house tops.
Hydroponics crops also grow faster, and are fairly free from soil borne diseases. The quality of the crop is also higher, and standard controlled condition provides consistent yields, and the methods and automatic operations mean less labor and cost is used. Certain crops can also be grown out of season, and it is also environmentally friendly as you eliminate the problems of water and fertilizers leeching into the ground. Be mindful though that hydroponic condition like high humidity is an environment that encourages salmonella growth. The crops are also at risk from pathogens attacks such as Verticillium caused by the high moisture levels and over watering of soil based plants.
When you undertake building a hydroponic system in your home, you need to decide if you want to have an indoor system or an outdoor system. Indoor gardening with hydroponics is more challenging than gardening outdoors. Whatever the reason is behind your choice, there are many more factors that must be controlled in order to attain a thriving and successful garden. An indoor garden will allow you to grow crops out of season, but you will have to constantly monitor photoperiod, temperature, day length and of course nutrient solutions periodically.
Location: Choosing Your Space
Your indoor hydroponics can be made as small as a table top right up to being as big as a large cupboard. Ventilation is important for an indoor hydroponic garden, and you must ensure that if your growing area is small, it must be adequately ventilated. A corner in a basement that is cool and out of the way is ideal, and make sure that the ceiling should be at least five feet high.
You also need to make sure that the area has easy access to electricity supply and fresh water. You also need to ensure that it will be easy for you to dispose of used nutrient solution must. These used nutrient solutions would have high content of nitrates and other salts. DO NOT pour them down a drain or dumped in the same place outside as it can make the soil toxic. The best way is to actually use the nutrients to fertilize normal garden beds or the lawn every so now and then.
Prepping the Growing Area
Remove any furniture or items that are not required in the area of your choosing. Indoor hydroponic gardens will be places of high humindity, so any items will absorb water and may become mouldy.
Carpeting is not recommended, but if removal is not an option, cover it with a plastic drop sheet so that any spills (and spills will happen) will not be absorbed. Concrete floors are best. You will also need to light proof the room. Do this by covering the windows with black plastic, or you can use heavy curtains instead to reduce the amount of light. While this at least makes it look like a normal window from the outside, curtains can get mouldy. Paint the room white or line it with reflective mylar to reflect light back to the plants. Partition your area to enclose the garden if you are creating an area within a larger room.
Ventilation is important for an indoor hydroponic garden (or any garden for that matter) because stagnant air can kill plants. It can also promote the growth of mould, which in itself is not hygienic at all for the occupants of the house. Create an inlet that allows you to pipe in air close the ground level (this is to avoid any light intrusion) and pump the air out with an air vent fan in the ceiling (or any other higher placings).
To stop light from coming in through the vents, consider using a curved shaped plastic ducting. You should also consider installing a netting or mesh across the vent to stop pests or insects from coming into the room. Run the vent 24 hours a day.
Lighting or photoperiod needs to be controlled in a manner pre-determined by the number of hours of light that a plant requires over a 24 hour period. There are generally two periods for plants: a vegetative growth period and a flowering period.
When the day length is 16-18 hours (which is around summer time), the plant goes into vegetative growth periods and starts forming leaves, stems and a strong structure in preparation for the flowering or fruiting period. When this happens, they require light at the blue end of the spectrum (ultraviolet) which encourages photosynthesis.
When the day sees only 10-12 hours of light, it signals the plant to grow fruits or flower. This is when they desire light from the red end of the spectrum.
You need to determine the lighting requirement of the plants you are cultivating as some plants do not follow this rule (such as zuchinis which will generally fruit with a long day). Indoor hydroponic gardening gives you this ability to control your plant\’s fruiting/flowering period.
There are three types of light that can be used on your garden:
Flourescent – These kinds of lighting is commonly used for growing seedlings and striking cuttings. This is because the lights do not burn quite as hot as the other types, allowing gardeners to place the light fairly close to the plants (about 3 or 4 inch). Flouros light are rich in blue light (important for vegetative growth). There are however grow tubes that are rich in red light as well and you should combine one normal flouro tube to one growlight.
Metal Halide Lamps – These are used in the vegetative stage and are High Intensity Discharge or HID lamp. There should be a distance of at least 12 inches between the lamp and the plants. A 400W metal halide lamp in a growing area with reflectors and mylar or white paint can light an area of 10-15 square feet.
High Pressure Sodium Lamps – These are used in the flowering or fruiting stage of growth. Do not place plants less than 12 inches away from the lights as they can burn. A 400W lamp will light an area of 12 -15 square feet (with reflective surfaces in grow area).
Tip: you can row the plants to around the 24-36 inch mark under florescent lights and then move them to high pressure sodium lights for flowering.
Once you\’ve got your growing area all prepped up, you can then get on to deciding which type of hydroponics system you want to use and into details of nutrient solutions, construction and maintenance of a successful indoor hydroponics garden.
Hydroponics : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroponics
Better Grow Hydro: http://www.bghydro.com/bgh/static/articles/0806_byos.asp
Hydroponic – Techniques: