Hydroponics: cultivating plants without soil

Hydroponics - 'work by water'

Hydroponics is a set of ways to grow off the ground. Its greatest asset is that it is accessible to all.

The term hydroponics comes from Latin and translates literally "work by water". In fact, it is a very old horticultural technique that allows to cultivate plants without soil. The soil is then replaced by an inert and sterile substrate composed of sand, coconut , perlite, vermiculite, marbles clay , synthetic foam, sphagnum, pebbles, pozzolana or rockwool. The roots of plants dive into the substrate or simply soak in it. The sole responsibility of the grower is to regulate the composition of nutrient solutions. These include the quality of water (PH and electro-conductivity). In short, the substrate is water-based with all the essential nutrients, minerals and trace elements required for plant growth and fruiting.

Hydroponics uses only water and chemical nutrients to grow plants

hydroponics

How the system of hydroponics works

The nutrient solution consists of water and liquid fertilizer, precisely dosed to obtain a good concentration of nitrogen, phosphorus and other elements. The absence of soil eliminates harmful organisms, weeds and weeds. This results in a considerable decrease in the use of herbicides.

Hydroponics is often seen on farms and industrial greenhouses

Hydroponic crops in pipes

Hydroponics typically use only 20% of the water needed for soil cultivation. The main problem is that the water has to be replaced periodically, that is to say enriched with nutrients. The electro-conductivity (EC) of the solution, ie its concentration of mineral salts, must be monitored daily and changed in case of chemical imbalance. Aeration and pumping of the solution, as well as artificial lighting (if hydroponics is done indoors) are very important as well. By cons, it should be noted that they increase the energy bill.

This horticultural technique makes it possible to produce soil-less crops

hydroponics

hydroponic farms

When it comes to large-scale culture, the system operates in closed circuit. The principle is that the substrate is pumped, recycled and renewed regularly. It must circulate to allow oxygenation. If the hydroponic device is working indoors, the water is stagnant and periodically changed. In case of decrease of the EC, fertilizer must be added; if EC increases, then water is added. If you're handyman, you can test a homemade system with gutter-type pipes and an aquarium pump.

The art of growing plants in the water

cultivate plants in hydroponics

The benefits of hydroponics

Indeed, hydroponics has many advantages. In the first place, it allows, like greenhouse crops, to produce in any season, even in small spaces and in urban areas. In addition, no soil is needed (countries where land is not very fertile or drought is important). Afterwards, thanks to hydroponics, you can save water. The third advantage is the rapid growth and accelerated maturation of plants and the automation of cultivation: temperature, lighting, pH control, nutrient concentration, ventilation. Finally, hydroponics is ecological. Insects and other parasites are banned and attack plants more rarely. Again, there is no need for weed control or herbicides.

Hydroponics is no longer a technology of the future

soil cultivation

The disadvantages of hydroponics

Hydroponics has practical and economic benefits, but is not entirely ecological and is its main fault. It generates significant energy costs, especially for heating and artificial lighting. Since the nutrient solution must be changed regularly, there is also the problem of polluted water: discharges of water loaded with mineral salts and trace elements.

Hydroponics is a widely used method for growing tomatoes and lettuce

tomatoes hydroponics

Despite the use of fertilizers, the harvest is sometimes poor in certain nutrients. This is why the products produced have a taste of water and are of low quality. The hot and humid environment in which plants grow can lead to the accidental development of bacteria and fungi, which in turn leads to significant crop losses as well as massive use of fungicides.

Hydroponics is a subset of hydroponics

hydroponic salads

Which plants to grow in hydroponics

Currently, a lot of vegetable crops can be made in hydroponics. Eg tomatoes and lettuce, but also cucumbers, aubergines, peppers, salads, aromatic herbs, strawberries. Orchid-type flowers can also be grown in hydroponics. Finally, hydroponics is used on some green walls that are also very trendy at the moment, and in the indoor gardens .

Hydroponics is a technique practiced in Asia and Central America for over two millennia

outdoor hydroponics

vertical hydroponics

vertical hydroponics

hydroponic vegetable garden

pumpkins in hydroponics

Hydroponic crops

hydroponics

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