Written by: Emmanuel

By liking what we do and living our meaning, we're in harmony with everyone and everything. Emmanuel van der Meulen. CEO, Peace Evolution.

Published: January 16, 2024

Hydroponics for Beginners

How-To Build your Own Hydroponic System for Beginners.

I tried to make this system as cheap as I could and as simple as possible. It was a learning project. I could have used other tools but used only the ones I had on hand.

Hydroponics Farming

Hydroponic Gardening – Grow Organic Plants Fast

In this video we talk about hydroponics and how you grow crops such as lettuce fast and easy. This gardening method is changing the world of how plants and vegetables are grown.

You may be hearing the word “Hydroponics” for the first time – surprisingly hydroponics is a method of growing vegetables which existed since the middle ages, see The origins of hydroponic farming. This method allows us to grow plants without using soil. In fact, this technique uses water as a medium to supply all the essential mineral nutrients to the plants.

When we analyze photosynthesis, we’ll find that sunlight and chlorophyll (a chemical inside plant’s leaves) are used to convert CO2 (carbon dioxide) and H2O (water) into oxygen and glucose. The chemical formula goes like this:

6CO2 + 6H2O 🡪 C6H12O6 + 6O2

“Soil” is not mentioned anywhere in the formula, thus confirming plants grow without it. Plants require water and nutrients and where these are provided from an external source, they’re able to grow without soil. This is the main principle of hydroponics. 

The Common Methods of Growing Vegetables

Before exploring hydroponics, let’s learn about the common practices of growing vegetables. Though almost every individual consumes vegetables on a regular basis, very few are aware of the different methods of growing them, even when growing vegetables at home. Here are some of the major ones:

The traditional Garden Method: If you are a gardener with sufficient time and space, you’re able to grow vegetables in a vegetable patch. With this method, you clear and till the soil, clear the weeds, and incorporate sufficient compost. You would then make paths through your vegetable patch with enough space for a wheelbarrow.

Permaculture Method: The focus of this method remains on sustainable use of land and growing plants in accordance with nature. Permaculture is based on the saying: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and helps in reducing the carbon footprint. With this method, vegetables are grown without chemicals. This system also minimizes wastage, with compost bins, Rainwater tanks, and wormeries. It is possible to integrate Permaculture principles in the smallest gardens.

No-dig Method: Though not ideal in heavily compacted soil, this works perfectly well with light soil. With this method, a narrow bed is created above the ground and vegetable plants are grown on this bed.

Raised Beds Method: The working principle for Raised Beds and No-dig technique is similar. The only difference is that raised beds are deeper in comparison to No-dig beds. You are able to use large sized boxes, placing a mixture of compost and soil in them.

Square Foot Gardening Method: This is an effective system when space is scarce. With this method, the deep raised beds are prepared in 1-foot modules, planting all the vegetables in the raised beds. Square foot gardening is especially suited to small categories of vegetables and salad crops.

The Essential Chemicals Required for Growing Vegetables

In order to survive, vegetable plants require different elements such as Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen (these are present in air and water). Besides these elements, they require secondary nutrients (such as calcium, sulphur, and magnesium) and several micronutrients (like copper, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, cobalt, boron, and iron).

The primary chemicals plants require to thrive are the three macronutrients: nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous.

When the vegetable plants do not get these essential macronutrients in the required quantity, their ability to grow and produce is affected. In order to stimulate the growth of the plant, we use chemical fertilizers containing the three macronutrients.

With growing concerns about environmental and human health, the usage of chemical fertilizers is not at all advisable. See Don’t Fertilize Your Plants: 5 Reasons You Should Never Use Chemical Fertilizers.

Side Effects of Consuming Chemical Fertilizers

Chemical Fertilizers are harmful to human health. These are a mix of toxic chemicals that pollute water resulting in various health problems. The effect of chemicals present in synthetic fertilizers are mentioned below:

Heavy Metals: Fertilizers contain various heavy metals like Lead, Mercury, Uranium, and Cadmium. These cause problems in the lungs, kidneys, and liver. They are also a major cause of cancer.

Ammonium Nitrate: Ammonium Nitrate is present in fertilizers and causes skin and eye irritation. If inhaled by mistake, it causes irritation in the lungs, throat, and nose. Sometimes, the affected person also experiences vomiting, nausea, flushing of the neck and face, headache, uncontrolled muscle movements, nervousness, and fainting.

Potassium Chloride: Potassium chloride present in chemical fertilizers disturbs nerve impulses and obstructs virtually all functions of the body and primarily affects the functioning of the heart. Potassium chloride in chemical fertilizers causes different kinds of stomach and gastric pains, dizziness, convulsions, bloody diarrhea, mental impairments, headaches, itching or redness of the eyes or skin.

Cadmium: Cadmium is yet another toxic chemical found in synthetic fertilizers. When it enters the human body, it causes several diseases like pneumonitis, trachea-bronchitis, renal failure, pulmonary oedema and osteoporosis.

These toxic chemicals put us at risk for diseases like Cancer and Methemoglobinemia.

An Alternative: Organics

After learning about various harmful effects of synthetic fertilizers, some would like to shift towards safe options, the safest option being, growing fruit and vegetables organically.

Benefits of Growing Organically

Growing vegetables and fruit organically has various advantages over the traditional methods. Some of the prime benefits are mentioned below:

Nutritious Food: Growing organically results in the production of nutritious cereals, vegetables, and fruit. This is because organic farming is done on rich and vibrant soil which is better than farming done with the help of synthetic fertilizers.
The organic soils are always rich in minerals and nutrients which provides us with healthy food.

Beneficial for the Environment: Organic growing is beneficial to everyone, people, wildlife, soil, and water. The organic gardens and fields are free from chemical fertilizers which makes them the safest place for birds to forage, bees to work, and kids to play. Whereas, the non-organic farms and gardens are often responsible for autism, cancer, attention deficit disorder, and different chronic diseases.

Low-cost Maintenance: The maintenance of organic vegetable and fruit gardens is cost effective. Most of the organic remedies for weeds and pests are easy, safe, and made from recycled materials.

Brings You Closer to Nature: Organic growing brings you closer to and provides an understanding and awareness of nature. It lets you observe nature closely and thoroughly. When you grow vegetables organically, you learn more about the functioning of the natural world. You’d be amazed to know about the role of insects, animals, plants, and other garden and field companions in the production of nutrient-rich organic food.

Fights Climate Change: When growing vegetables and fruit organically, the soil is regularly nurtured with the help of organic methods. Your organic garden and field becomes a natural storage for carbon present in the atmosphere. This carbon in the soil is beneficial for the soil structure and helps in supporting great plant life.

One Step Ahead: Hydroponics

There is another better way to grow vegetables without harming the environment and it’s known as Hydroponics. Growing hydroponically is a guarantee of getting healthy and nutritious vegetables all through the year. As mentioned, hydroponic plants are grown in water rather than soil. All the essential nutrients are mixed in water and because of the absence of soil, they reach the plant’s body fully and in a shorter time.

hydroponics lettus | Peace Evolution
hydroponics best ph | Peace Evolution

Why Grow Hydroponically?

There are various advantages of growing plants without soil. If you see it from the perspective of hydroponic growers, they get greater yields in comparison to conventional methods.

The roots of hydroponic plants dip directly into the nutrient and mineral-rich water solution – plants get their food easily.

Moreover, hydroponic plants are protected against various pests. As you might know soil contains pests, so developing plants without it means a clean growing system which ultimately means fewer diseases. Since growing plants hydroponically is an indoor process, you’re able to grow them all year round.

Today, there are various automated systems to grow plants hydroponically. With the presence of timers and controllable by computers, these systems simplify the whole process of growing plants hydroponically.

What are the different kinds of Hydroponic Systems?

Growing plants with their roots dissolved directly in a water solution is only one kind of hydroponic gardening and this is known as Nutrient Film Technique (N.F.T). There are several other methods used to grow plants hydroponically. Here are some of the commonly used hydroponic systems:

Wicks System

This is a simple hydroponic system and is also described as a passive system. It means that this system has no moving parts. There is a bottom reservoir filled with a nutrient solution. From that reservoir, different wicks are drawn up to the growing medium. In this system, coco, soil, perlite, etc. are used as mediums.

Water Culture

This is an active system and has moving parts. When it comes to active hydroponic systems, the simplest one is water culture. Roots are completely submerged into the water containing the solution of essential nutrients. An air pump is used in this system which oxygenates the water and allows the roots to breathe.

Ebb & Flow System (Flood & Drain)

In this system, the growing tray is temporarily flooded with water. The nutrient solution in the reservoir griddle surrounds the roots prior to draining back. This process is mostly automated with the help of a water pump set on a timer.

Drip System

This is a commonly used hydroponics method. This system has a water pump controlled by a timer. The pump transfers the water and nutrient solution to the network of raised water jets. The nutrient solution is collected by the recovery system and sent back to the reservoir and recycled.

N.F.T. System

This is the most commonly recognized hydroponic system. This system doesn’t require any timer, the flow of the nutrient solution is constant in this system. There is no need to place any medium in the growing tray. The plants get what they need from the dissolved solution of water and nutrients, directly through their roots. The recycled water consistently flows downwards to the tank from the growing tray. An electric pump and maintenance are required to run the system appropriately. Without the water flow the roots would dry out.

Aeroponic System

An advanced method. As in the N.F.T. System, the primary growing medium in an Aeroponic system includes air. The roots hang in the air and are consistently misted (every few minutes) with the nutrient solution. If the misting cycle is interrupted, the roots dry out fast. That’s why a timer and a water pump are used in this system.

What are the Benefits of Growing Hydroponically?

  • Soil is not required to grow vegetables.

  • You govern the nutrients and regulate the amount of nutrition as required.

  • It isn’t hard work, not messy and most of the process would be automated.

  • You don’t require much space, inside or outside, and where hydroponics is chosen for farming, you would decide on an ideal and suitable size based on your available space.

  • Hydroponic gardens save water, they use 2 to 3 times less water, importantly, the water is recycled.

  • Growing vegetables hydroponically is affordable, you’re able to start with a small budget.

  • You do not need to contend with weeds, diseases and pests.

  • The vegetables are healthy and produce a higher yield.

  • The roots of plants don’t need to search for nutrients.

  • Vegetables grown hydroponically taste better and provide better nutrition.

  • You grow the plants all year-round.

  • You’ll find that growing hydroponically is relaxing.

  • Growing hydroponically is a wonderful way to spend time with your family.

  • All your friends and family members would be interested in your gardening talent.

This is just the beginning. As you research more about hydroponics, you’ll notice further value. You’ll realize that hydroponics is not only an eco-friendly way to grow plants, it also minimizes the carbon footprint. Be prepared, hydroponics is the future.

Hydroponics at Home – Even in Limited Space

Khushboo Sonigera, an architect and landscape gardener based in Bengaluru, is growing her own chemical- and pesticide-free vegetables using hydroponics on her balcony at home. She runs workshops on easy soil-less cultivation in Bengaluru

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