As with all industries, there exists a natural trend towards the next new thing. While it’s not exactly new, hydroponics remains at the leading edge of what gardening enthusiasts are excited about at the moment. Hydroponics has been favored for several years now, so it seems to be a lasting phenomenon. Hydroponics has been adopted as a supplemental way to garden or as a valid substitute for traditional gardening.
Hydroponics can serve as a way to take your love of gardening to the next level. It can be an option for want to-be gardeners who don’t have the yard space to garden in the traditional method. Or, it can offer an extended growing season for those whose climate would otherwise be limited. For those who are new to the concept, take a look at what it is, what equipment is needed, and what you need to know about hydroponic grow lights.
What Is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a method of gardening that provides a growing environment using water as opposed to soil. Here, the grower provides a nutrient-rich solution to give the plant root the necessary requirements that would typically be offered through the ground. Because it does not depend on soil use, the designated growing area can be brought indoors, and it frequently is. Because the nutrients are being purposely introduced to the plant roots, where they are easily absorbed, hydroponics often results in fuller and faster growth. It is easy for those gardeners with a successful system to see why it would quickly become a popular method.
What Do You Need to Start?
The first consideration is what type of delivery system will be used. There are a couple of methods available. The plants can be put into trays that allow the solution to flow through, have the roots hanging down into the solution, or placed among a shallow rock bed where the solution can reach the roots. Determining which method to use will help drive this first equipment investment. Some hydroponic growers swear by each method, so explore each method’s pros and cons to determine which may be best for the particular type of plant and growing plan to help determine the best fit.
The next necessary items work together to create the home for the plants, the nutrient-rich solution, and a base to support the plant. The solution is similar to fertilizer, but it has a higher concentration of nutrients. In traditional gardening, the plant is fed by the fertilizer and the naturally occurring nutrients in the soil itself. The hydroponic solution is providing both simultaneously. There is also a need to give some kind of structure to support the plants as they become top-heavy from fruit or foliage.
Because of the use of water and solution, it is essential to have a water pump. The pump will move the solution through the plant life. It would not be healthy for the plants to be left in standing water. The flow of the solution with the water is how the plants are able to collect the nutrients. Flowing water helps to keep the water refreshed and enables the system to ward off collecting any unwanted water scum or algae.
Since it is optional, most hydroponic growers do not go long before investing in a timer. The plants will still require a daily rhythm of light, and some may require ventilation. These requirements can be managed manually, but most will outsource this chore to a programmable timer, creating a relatively automated system.
Speaking of lights, this is the final equipment needed for a successful system. As hydroponic systems are often indoors, they frequently do not have ready exposure to the full spectrum of light available directly from the sun. The lights create a substitute for sunlight and can become another area where the real advantage can be accomplished since the artificial light can be administered beyond the hours that the sun would normally be available. This increased access to a sun substitute encourages the crop to thrive.
Which Lights Are Best?
This is a complicated question to answer as there are many options available. The answer will require the grower to make decisions on what they are growing and for what purpose. Someone who uses hydroponics to start seedlings will not have the same grow light requirements as someone planning to grow crops year-round. Next, the grower needs to know what type of plants will be grown in the system. It may be that more than one kind of grow light is necessary to accomplish the goals for the crop. Nevertheless, here are a couple of the most popular types of lights used in hydroponic systems.
High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Lights
The three types of HID lights produce a different spectra range of light with a high lumen-per-watt output. Aside from the high efficiency that HID lights offer, they are also appreciated for being adjustable. The downside is with such a high output, there is a chance that the plants will be overwhelmed and burned by the heat.
Double-Ended (DE) Lights
This type of lighting offers the most in the way of longevity. They are often preferred for their ability to disperse the light evenly across the growing system. The drawback most noted with this light is the possibility of offering too much heat and burning the plant. Another downside is that DE lights are more expensive.
Right away, one advantage to fluorescent is that it burns cooler than the previously mentioned lights. Fluorescent is best for the grower who plans to use the system for propagating seeds. They are not as successful at supporting the flowering and fruit stages of growth. They are long-lasting, efficient, and inexpensive, so they can easily be used alongside other lighting plans to supplement certain stages of the crop’s life cycle.
These lights are still new to the world of hydroponics. There is a lot of promise, but the investment cost has most growers waiting for lower prices to begin incorporating LED lights into their systems. The main advantage of LED is the lost cost of energy required to use these lights. They are known to last a long-time and could potentially offer a great return on investment.
If you’re just getting started in the world of hydroponics, you can see that it is both simple and complex. The concept is simple, but the design can be challenged. You must determine your goals for using hydroponics to help guide the decisions that follow to achieve the type of crop you’re planning. Enjoy your new hydroponic garden, and happy growing.