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All you need to know about hydroponics.

WHAT IS HYDROPONICS?

Hydroponics is simply the growing of plants without soil. Plants don’t need soil, but they do need the vitamins and minerals that soil can provide for them. Plants also need light, water, carbon dioxide and oxygen at the root zone. In hydroponics, plants are grown in an inert medium such as rocks or coco coir fiber, and they are fed a solution containing a perfected mix of primary, secondary and micro-nutrients. Almost any kind of plant can be grown hydroponically, including veggies, herbs, fruits and flowers. Hydroponics is widely used by farmers and growers throughout the world. 

Furthermore, there are other aspects as well for consideration. As all the growth factors are optimised, the light - spectrum, luminous power, colour -, the water level, the constitution and quantity of the nutrient solution, the temperature, the humidity, the pH level and the electroconductivity are just some of the many features under controlled management.

 

The combination of all these factors makes hydroponics more productive and in the long term more competitive than conventional agriculture. Many farmers from all around the world are beginning to switch over to hydroponics and even more, newcomers decide to enter the market given such conditions – in the USA, the Netherlands, France, Japan, just to mention some of the main countries. The concern about water use is also a paramount reason hydroponics is becoming more popular, as it significantly conserves water over the conventional growing methods – at least 90% compared to traditional agriculture.

5 TYPES OF HYDROPONIC SYSTEMS

There are several hydroponic systems. They differ in the way the nutrient solution comes in contact with the roots.

Nutrient Film Technique System (NFT)

NFT works by continuously flowing nutrient solutions onto the grow tray, so it doesn't need a timer. The solution then runs through the roots system of the plants till it reaches the channels' end then drains back to the reservoir. It is able to do that because the tube is slightly downward. NFT does not need any growing medium.

 

This system saves from 80 to 90% of water compared to traditional farming.

Deep Water Culture

DWC is an active recovery hydroponic system. It works by hanging a net pot with plants held by a floating styrofoam platform so that the roots are submerged in the nutrient solutions.

Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain)

Ebb and Flow methods work by using a timer to set the pump to pull the nutrients from the reservoir to the grow tray periodically. After the nutrient surrounds the plants' roots, it drains back to the system.

Drip Systems

In Drip systems, growers use a timer to set the pump to draw the nutrient solutions through a network of drip lines. These drip lines will drop tiny amounts of water onto the plants.

Aeroponics

In this type of system, plants are hung in the air, so no growing media are used. A timer controls the nutrient water pump to spray onto the root systems constantly. The spray cycle is quite quick as the roots are exposed to the air and need sufficient moistures.

THE MAIN ADVANTAGES OF HYDROPONICS

Hydroponics obtains the advantage over soil growing for several reasons. Plants can be grown year-round since climate conditions can be controlled in a managed environment. The automated nutrient solution dosing keeps the same amount of nutrients available all the time, whereas soil tends to run out of valuable content. Thanks to the nutrient solution provided, their roots do not need to reach out for nutrients. By that, the plants grown are significantly larger due to the efficient amount of nutrients and not having to waste time and energy on growing extensive root systems, but growing upwards instead. In addition, the plants can be grown closer together, resulting in diminished land use and higher produce. 

Growing with hydroponics as Growberry does, comes with many advantages, the biggest of which is a greatly increased rate of growth regarding your plants. With the proper setup, your plants will mature up to 25% faster and produce up to 30% more than the same plants grown in soil.

 

All of this is possible through careful control of your nutrient solution and pH levels. A hydroponic system like Growberry also uses less water than soil-based plants because the system is enclosed, which results in less evaporation. Believe it or not, hydroponics is better for the environment because it reduces waste and pollution from soil runoff.

WHY START GROWING IN A HYDROPONIC SYSTEM LIKE GROWBERRY?

Hydroponic gardening is an easy and environmentally sound way to grow a wide variety of healthy plants. With hydroponics, gardening is possible in areas where it would normally be impossible. In waste grounds for example, or in rocky areas, balconies and rooftops. With the use of artificial lighting, it is even possible to successfully garden in a spare room or garage. Hydroponics will produce a much higher yield than growing in soil, so if you want to max the production of your garden, hydroponics is a great way to do it! Hydroponics is also great because:

 

  • Plants grow up to 50% faster than in soil because they have easy access to food and water

  • Hydroponic produce often has many times more nutrition than conventionally grown produce

  • Hydroponically grown fruit and veggies have increased flavor and texture

  • Plants start out in a sterile medium, are fast-growing and kept safe from pests and diseases

  • Smaller containers can be used because the roots can grow without being root bound

  • Plants do not need to compete for nutrients, thus more can be grown in a smaller area

  • The increased control over growing conditions makes it easier to provide the best possible environment for plants, leading to better quality produce and higher yields

  • Less labor is required than growing in soil because no digging or weeding is required

 

With all the great advantages of hydroponics, you might think that it is difficult or complicated to try growing plants with it. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Anyone can try growing with Growberry. All you need are some basic tools and a little bit of knowledge. There is a bit of learning curve, but that is part of the fun!

WHY DO HYDROPONIC SYSTEMS NEED GROWING MEDIA?

An inert growing medium is used in pots to support plants and protect roots from the sunlight. It gives the roots something to hold on to. These pots usually sit in a tray or a channel of some sort. Plants roots need air just as much as they need water, and the key element to a successful grow medium is its ability to hold an abundant amount of oxygen. A grow medium must drain well and provide good conduction of nutrient and moisture to the root zone.

WHAT TYPES OF GROWING MEDIA ARE IN USE?

One can choose from many different types of growing media, which all have their advantages and disadvantages. Growberry uses mainly rockwool, but if you wish to change, it can easily be done. The list below shows a few possibilities worth considering.

Rockwool

Rockwool has been used popularly in recent years. This material is created by melting rocks and spinning them into bundles of filament fibers. Rockwool is a versatile inert growing medium which can be used as a standalone material in many types of Hydroponics system, especially recirculating types.

 

Pros:

  • Holds water very well.

  • Good oxygen retention.

  • Has a variety of sizes and shapes

 

Cons:

  • Rockwool is hard to be disposed.

  • Dust from the particles.

  • Not pH neutral.

 

Coconut Coir

Coconut Coir, or also called "Coco-tek", "Cocopeat", and "Ultrapeat" is an organic material created from the coconut shell husks.

Pros:

  • Able to hold water and the air well.

  • Organic made.

  • Renewable & environmentally friendly.

 

Cons:

  • Does not have good drainage. So it is often mixed with other material.

  • Uncompressed after several uses.

 

Perlite

Perlite is a common medium choice in Hydroponics. It is created by expanding volcanic glass under extremely high temperature.  Consequently, countless small white particles pop out like popcorn.

 

Pros:

  • Lightweight

  • High oxygen retention

  • Reusable

 

Cons:

  • Too lightweight for some Hydroponic systems.

  • Dust from the particles.

 

Expanded Clay Pellets (LECA)

Expanded clay pellets are small marble shaped balls created by heating the clays until it expands into small round pellets.

 

Pros:

  • Great oxygen retention.

  • Reusable.

 

Cons:

  • Poor water retention capacity.

  • Heavy

 

Growstones

The porous rocks created from recycled glass is a versatile medium that can fit almost any hydroponic system.

 

Pros:

  • Great air to water ratio

  • Lightweight

 

Cons:

  • Potential damage to some plant root types because of its clinging.

  • Hard to clean.

 

Vermiculite

Like Perlite, it is a mined material that is made from expanded pebbles under extreme heat. It is often used in combination with perlite because of its poor drainage capacity.

 

Pros:

  • Great moisture and nutrient retention capacity.

 

Cons:

  • Expensive.

  • Retain too much water.

 

Starter plugs

Starter plugs are made from organic materials like peat moss and other bioadhesive matters. This material is perfect for seed germination and plant propagation.

 

Pros:

  • Great for seedlings, and propagation phase.

  • Usually organic, sustainable.

 

Cons:

  • Quite expensive.

  • Only used for seedlings or cloning.

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF GROWING LIGHTS?

How do you grow plants indoors all day without the lights? Or your outdoor space doesn't get enough sunlight.


When it comes to lightning, the sunlight is still the best. But technology makes the artificial light much more viable and bring almost the similar results as natural light.

For survival, plants need food. However, they don't actively seek the foods like the human. Instead, they use sunlight to make food (sugars) through a process called photosynthesis.


Plants store the sunlight's energy in a green pigment of their leaves, called chlorophyll.


This can be explained by the reaction:

Carbon dioxide + water + (light energy) --> glucose + oxygen


CO2 in the environment react with water from plants roots under the sunlight. The sugar (food), glucose is created in the process of photosynthesis. Then it is used for respiration or converted into starch and stored.

THE 3 MAIN TYPES OF GROWING LIGHTS

Light is not an issue for outdoor plants, but in order for sun-loving plants to thrive indoors, artificial light of the correct spectrum and intensity must be supplied. This is accomplished with grow lights. When it comes to grow lights, there is a large variety of types and sizes. But in the end, they all come down to three main categories - High-Intensity Discharge (HID), Fluorescent, and LED.

 

HID (High-Intensity Discharge)

  • HID lights are more efficient than fluorescent ones. They deliver more lights per watt  and more heat as well. So they tend to get hot fast and need much ventilation.

  • HPS (High-Pressure Sodium) bulbs give off more light in the yellow and red range of the spectrum. So even though they can be used in all growing phase of plants, they are more favored towards the fruiting and flowering plants.

  • MH (Metal Halide) emits light at the blue range of the spectrum. Hence, it's better suited for the vegetative phase of plants.

  • CMH (Ceramic Metal Halide ) lights seem like MH, but it works quite differently and more effectively. CMH has a much wider light spectrum than MH and HPS. And it has better a life-span than the two.

Fluorescent

This perhaps the most popular choice for home gardeners, largely because of its cost and its acceptable efficiency. There are two types of Fluorescent lights - CFL and Tube-style lights.

  • CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lights) lights are the inexpensive twisty bulbs that can be found anywhere near your living. Since they are short and don't produce lots of heat, they can be placed near plants and are great bulbs for small set-ups.

  • Tube-style Fluorescent lights are much wider than CFLs and usually come with many bulbs arranged paralleled one another in a panel.

LED (Light Emitting Diode)

LED lights come later in the indoor gardening world. But it is such an efficient method compared to other lights, they quickly conquered the growing light market. They produce much light with little electricity. LEDs are incredibly lightweight. They run cool and usually have built-in cooling out of the box. LEDs are made up of many diode and growers can customize which light wavelength/light colors they need for plants.

However, LEDs are expensive, and they tend to take lots of space. If you want something that is modern, durable, energy-efficient, go with long-spectrum LED lights.

WHAT NUTRIENTS DO PLANTS NEED?

What plants require are still the same in any environment - organic compost (C, O, N, H), macro- and micronutrients. To survive and grow, hydroponically grown plants need oxygen, carbon dioxide, lights, water and nutrients.

Proper nutrient formulation is essential to hydroponics. All minerals that the plants need are dissolved in water which is then circulated through the system to the plants. The nutrient solution should be monitored to keep levels at optimum strength.


Plants get oxygen and carbon dioxide from the environment for respiration.


Lights supply plants with energy, which is used in the photosynthesis process to make foods. They get lights from the natural lights of the sun or artificial lights from grow bulbs.


Water gives plants moisture.


Nutrients in the water are what the soilless growers are in total control of to let plants reach their full potential growth.

WHAT ARE THE MACRONUTRIENTS AND WHICH OF THEM ARE IMPORTANT FOR THE PLANTS?

Macronutrients are the ones that plants need in large amounts.

Nitrogen (N)

Nitrogen is the primary food for plant growth, especially during the vegetative growth phase. No nitrogen means no leaves produced. Essentially, it plays the vital role in leaf and stem growth. And its colors and sizes.

Phosphorus (P)

Phosphorus is vital for photosynthesis and is one of the components of the plants’ DNA, the genetic memory unit of plants, which is involved in seed production and plant vigor. Plants require Phosphorus in large amounts at the early phase of seedling, germination and flowering stage. So it is responsible for the formation of seeds, roots, flowering and fruits.

Potassium (K)

Potassium is used in all stages of plant growth. It helps synthesize sugar, starches, and carbohydrates. It also plays a certain role in the development of roots, stems, and flowers. Plants with sufficient Potassium have good resistance to bacteria and insects.

Calcium (Ca)

Fast-growing flowers and vegetables need Ca nearly in a large dose. It is necessary for cell formation and development.

Magnesium (Mg)

Again, fast-growing plants also need Mg in large amounts. Mg is essential to chlorophyll production. It helps create the oxygen through photosynthesis and is recognizable in healthy and vigorous plants.

Sulfur (S)

Sulfur is basically the group of components of 21 amino acid that form protein, many hormones, and vitamins, including vitamin B.

WHAT ARE THE MICRONUTRIENTS AND WHICH OF THEM ARE IMPORTANT FOR THE PLANTS?

Micronutrients are required in smaller amounts. Yet, they still play an important role in plant growth.

 

Zinc (Zn)

Zincs work other elements to form chlorophyll, which is important for stem growth, and a vital catalyst for most plants' enzymes.

Manganese (Mn)

MN aids in nitrogen utilization along with iron in the production of chlorophyll.

Iron (Fe)

Needed for chlorophyll synthesis and is important to the enzyme system.

Boron (Bo)

Combined with Calcium in forming cell membranes, and chlorophyll.

 

Take care of the macronutrients first, and don't let plants get too deficient and excessive of these micronutrients, and you are going to be just fine.

 

Not all nutrients are available at the same pH level. Normally, macronutrients (N, P, K) are soluble in the middle of the lines. Meanwhile, micronutrients (trace elements) are available mostly in the pH middle level, and some are at the lower left end of the pH level.

HOW DOES VENTILATION AND CARBON DIOXIDE MATTER?

The current of air that circulates around plants is as important in a grow space as light, water, or nutrients. Proper ventilation removes excess heat and humid air, while providing plants with healthy supplies of CO2, which plants need to thrive. A grow area should at least include a fan which moves air gently past your plants.


Temperature & Humidity


Plants are heat and cold and moisture sensitive just like people. Most indoor grow rooms get plenty of heat from the lamps, although greenhouses often need heating in the winter. In most situations, proper venting can keep temperatures or humidity from getting too high, although some grow rooms (especially those using CO2 enrichment) need an air conditioner to lower heat and humidity. No matter what your growing level, it is important to learn the environmental requirements for the plant you are trying to grow.