Today’s farmers face brutal challenges. One season they deal with fierce drought, the next year it’s torrential rain. Then there are diseased crops and insect infestations to worry about. One solution that has brought both peace and profit to the modern farmer is year-round gardening with hydroponics.
Natural rainwater, fertile lands and ideal growing conditions are becoming scarce, and hydroponics gardening is seen as a heaven-sent miracle for many farmers. They are no longer at the mercy of Mother Nature. Farmers are able to grow healthy crops all year long and yield full harvests in spite of weather, insects or disease. Of all the benefits of hydroponics gardening, this is the most important.
The earliest documentation of plants growing and surviving without soil as the source of nutrients can be traced to the 1699 records of a fellow named Woodward. However, it’s believed that hydroponics gardening was practiced in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
The roots of hydroponics methods in modern agriculture were evident in the 1840s. At that time, researchers discovered that by developing a formula containing all the essential nutrients that plants need for growth, including nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen dioxide, the need for soil could be completely eliminated. A number of German botanists adopted this idea and soon developed the basic nutrient formulas and growing techniques, which are still in use today.
Hydroponics gardening requires as little as 10% of the land used in traditional farming, and less than 10% the amount of water. It’s possible to reduce the amount of water further by re-circulating the water used for hydroponics gardening.
Many popular types of produce can be successfully grown using hydroponics gardening. Growers who practice year-round gardening with hydroponics enjoy broccoli, cabbage, celery, chard, cucumbers, eggplant, flowers, grapes, lettuce, melons, onions, peppers, pole beans, radishes, strawberries and tomatoes.
Rarely is produce grown hydroponically affected by the insects that typically thrive in soil, or the diseases caused by soil microorganisms. This is one of the main advantages to hydroponics gardening. In turn, farmers are less inclined to use insecticides to prevent pest infestations. As a result, the crops do not carry traces of insecticides. Further, the produce can be picked ripe and enjoyed immediately, eliminating the need for chemical preservatives. That’s a huge benefit for people who like their produce pure and clean.
Water conservation is another attractive feature of hydroponics gardening. In dry climates, where precious water must be re-circulated, hydroponics systems can greatly improve harvest yields. It’s also possible to grow a large yield of hydroponics produce quickly, in a relatively small area. In fact, it is not unusual to grow four heads of lettuce in the same amount of space that one head of lettuce would require using tradition soil gardening methods.
If you’d like to garden year-round with hydroponics, you have various techniques available:
* Water Culture Hydroponics
In this type of hydroponics system, the roots of the plants are held in a large waterproof tank. With mesh or string supporting the plants, the roots are able to hang in the water and obtain food from the nutrient formula contained in the tank.
* Gravel Culture
Gravel culture is a more costly system to install and maintain. Hydroponics systems using gravel culture involve a waterproof bench filled with inert pea-sized gravel. This gravel is used to support the roots of the plants. A solution containing all the essential nutrients required by the plant is pumped into the gravel from a holding tank. The pump is turned off when the bench becomes filled with the solution, and the solution drains back to the holding tank.
Whichever method of hydroponics garden you choose, it’s important to replenish the nutrient solutions periodically. Proper lighting is also essential. Several grow lights should be set with automatic timers to deliver the appropriate amount of light to the plants.
You can easily find the materials and supplies needed to build and maintain a hydroponics system. Visit your local gardening center and you’ll be on your way to enjoying year-round hydroponics gardening.