Hydroponics is useful in two main ways. First, it provides a more controlled environment for plant growth than soil thereby removing many unknowns from experiments. Second, many plant species produce more in less time and sometimes of higher quality, which under certain economic and environmental conditions, makes hydroponics growing more profitable to the farmer.
With hydroponics there are no soil-borne diseases, weeds to pull, or soil to till, and plants can be placed very close to one another. This allows a large amount of food to be produced in a small amount of space. Hydroponics is also very water-efficient as it uses containers or closed loop systems for the recirculation of water, and therefore requires only a small fraction of the water used in traditional farming.
These qualities combine to make hydroponics useful wherever people wish to grow plants in a non-traditional manner. Science fiction writers have long speculated that hydroponics would allow space stations or spaceships to grow their own food. The same qualities make hydroponics ideal for those who wish to grow plants with maximum control over conditions, and maximum density.
The environment, or climate, in which your plants are grown, is one of the most important factors affecting your end results. The temperature and humidity have to be right for the type of crop you are raising; the lighting has to be of sufficient intensity and duration for the stage your crop has reached. These and many other factors have to be considered before you can hope to grow a healthy and productive crop.
Let's look briefly at the various factors involved. Growing plants indoors means that you have to create similar conditions to those outside. This may seem obvious at first glance, but is it true? Ask yourself what the advantages of Hydroponics gardening are. The outside climate is very varied and does not always work to the plant's advantage. For example a bad storm or a late frost can damage or kill tender young plants.
One of the major advantages of hydroponics gardening is that you can control the climate within the grow room. This means that you can supply your plants with the ideal conditions for their healthy growth, throughout their lives. This ensures a good healthy yield and a bigger profit margin.
Having decided upon which type of hydroponics system to use, you now need to promote the right growing conditions. All healthy plants require a good supply of water and balanced nutrients. They need the right kind of light, for the right period of time, each day. Your plants will need some kind of support for their structure, especially as they mature and grow heavy with harvestable produce. Like outdoor plants they also need the temperature to be within a certain range. Too cold and your plants will not thrive, but remain poor stunted things. Too hot and they may well dry out, then their leaves will wither and the plants die.
The addition of Carbon Dioxide gas (CO2) may be advisable to promote Photosynthesis within the green leaves of your plants. Finally some form of clean fresh air circulation is needed to ensure that your crop can breathe. Like you, your plants need Oxygen for life. They breathe it in through their tissues and like you, can become sick if it is dirty or contaminated. So, taking these factors one at a time, how can we create the optimum conditions for our plants?
Firstly water and a good supply of balanced nutrients are essential. Which nutrient to buy and how to use it? This again is a major question to some people. My advice to you would be to go with a nutrient that you can understand and are comfortable using. As you gain experience and confidence you can experiment with other methods and suppliers at will.
Lighting is another key area that seems to cause newcomers a problem. The type of light and the number of daylight hours are determined by the species of plants you are cultivating and their stage of development. Young seedlings and cuttings, for example, need much softer light than do plants about to flower. Equatorial plants will generally need a higher light intensity for a longer period than will plants from the regions where days and growing seasons are short.
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