Everyone knows the benefits of clean organic food. It’s no secret we all want to eat healthier, more nutritious foods and lead more sustainable lives. Do you sometimes think you may not have enough fresh greens in your diet? Imagine having all the salad greens and vegetables you’ll ever need, clean and fresh from your yard or indoor garden. The idea of gardening may conjure up problems for some urban dwellers such as inadequate space, the time and trouble of irrigation, and just spending all your free time in the dirt. Hydroponic gardening could be the answer to all of those gardening issues and offer solutions to many more.
Hydroponic gardening is a very simple concept. It provides constant irrigation which contains nutrients for plants without the need for soil as a growing medium. You can buy hydroponic gardening systems online or you can build your soil-free garden yourself. This article is not a step by step on how to build one of these efficient gardens but rather a look at how these gardens operate and what one might look like.
The main thing in hydroponic gardening is the stream of circulating water. It will usually come from a storage tank on the ground with a water pump that pumps water up to the top or high point of the garden. Many people like to use 3 to 4 inch PVC pipe to channel the stream which has its advantages. The stream and the storage tank must be “light tight”; the pipe method accomplishes this. If your nutrient rich water is exposed to sunlight you’ll have algae blooms in no time. PVC is also sold with all the right sized attachments like the end pieces and “t” fittings. Another method for streaming uses household rain gutters containing gravel or other lightweight rocks. The key element is to get water with added nutrients pumped from the storage tank to the high end of your stream and have it saturate all the plant roots as it flows by before dropping back into your storage tank. The water should splash from about 6 inches above the surface so it can re-aerate.
In the top of the PVC stream pipe are holes cut large enough for plant holders. Plastic pots are available with open slotted sides so water can flow through to nourish your plants. There are various growing mediums made from moss-like materials to hold the plants in place. This “flowing water” feature of hydroponics allows your plants to take just as much water as they need; no more and no less. This means you never worry about watering the right amount; you just change the water every few weeks and add more nutrients. It’s wise to do a lot of research on plant nutrients before starting your hydroponic garden as nutrients are considered the “key” in this type of gardening. You need to use the right nutrients for the right plants. It stands to reason that all plants in the stream should be compatible in their nutrient needs. Too much nutrient in the stream can cause “nutrient burn” causing your plants to turn brown and die. The pH in the water has to be in the proper range and rain water usually works well. If you don’t have access to rain water, there are “pH kits” you can purchase to get the water in the right pH range.
It’s been said that if we stopped wasting water and fossil fuels on mowing and growing grass lawns and we simply planted food crops at home, we could feed the world. By growing your own food you’ll use less fuel for shopping, fewer grocery bags and know what is in and on your food. This is certainly another example of “green is better”. The ease and convenience of hydroponic gardening makes it clear that we do have choices. From apartment or condo balconies, to front yards, back yards and roofs, hydroponic gardens can help make our families healthier, happier and more self-sufficient!