Hydroponics refer to indoor cultivation in a soil-free, chemically neutral medium with the aid of specially designed nutrient solutions and often powerful growth lamps to cultivate in conditions where normal cultivation is difficult. This article shows what equipment is needed and how to go about cultivating vegetables hydroponically. It also outlines different hydroponic techniques and materials available to growers.
Growing without soil
An indoor garden in your basement without soil is possible. Hydroponic growing systems provide a carefully calculated solution (containing all the plant's nutrient) needs in which the roots are immersed. By using this solution in an inert medium, such as rock wool, it provides the support that the soil would offer.
Hydroponic gardening kits are available from suppliers. It is not just the kit that needs to be purchased, but also the nutrient solution, which must be regularly replaced.
You might also have to purchase plant lamps and a supply of bulbs, because if one fails, the plants will be starved of light. When using home lamps you need to protect your eyes with shades, as the lamps can be very bright.
Tip: You need an adequate power supply. However, try to use as much natural light as possible.
You may grow plants in static water, for example in Mason jars, which are common in home hydroponics, or you may use running water. If you use static water, be sure to have half the root exposed so that the plant can absorb oxygen.
You will need to change the water regularly. If you use running water, an air pump of the kind used in fish tanks is useful. In this oxygenated water, you can cover the root completely.
Irrigation is used in systems having an inert medium. You may choose between overhead irrigation, which requires sprays on the ceiling, or you may irrigate with water flow from below. Computer-controlled irrigation is very useful, as this optimises the amount of water and nutrient reaching the plant and ensures no shortage.
Vermiculite is an an artificial silicate. It resembles sand, so it absorbs water well, and is cheaply available.
Rock [mineral] wool is also artificial, but you need to obtain it from hydroponic suppliers. This material, which comes in cubes, is very porous, and allows air and nutrient solution in easily, while providing a firm support for the plant.
Coarse sand will also suffice. Without a medium, plants will need to be supported by twine hanging from a beam. You will need to adjust the twine as the plant grows. The twine should be attached to bobbins, so you can adjust the length easily.