Hydroponics

Hydroponics Moving Forward, Looking Back

Lessons from the past, and how we came to create our present predicament, are now driving our future. We have heard the call for sustainability, a movement that has captured the imagination of those determined to make it a mindset.

Survival is man’s most fundamental instinct, an unconscious mandate that lies deep in our psyche and drives decisions, however large or small. In a world that, at times, feels shellacked and man-made, we yearn for the basics.

Core to life—to self-preservation—is sustenance. As our population has moved away from chemicals and preservatives, we have sought to do what our ancestors did everyday—grow and harvest our own food. Not a new concept, certainly. But a burgeoning movement called hydroponics—a different sort of farming—is now enjoying a growing membership. It has turned on its head everything we thought we knew about living off the land.

So we buy seeds and set up shop.  But we don’t do the expected. We don’t clear land and till the soil and pray for rain. We blast away at the old traditions of farming. We eliminate inefficiencies. We break free from the most basic of rules:  We don’t use soil, at all.

Instead we commit to hydroponics, a method of growing plants in a water-based, nutrient-rich solution. A hydroponic plant needs three things: moisture, nutrients and oxygen.

In hydroponics, the root system is supported with an inert medium—perlite, rockwool, clay pellets, peat moss, coconut fiber or vermiculite. The medium allows the plant root direct contact with nutrients and oxygen, essential for growth.

That’s the basic concept…but where to start?

Figure out your space. It seems natural to plant outdoors. We’re drawn outside—extracted from our protective cocoons we call home—to air and earth, to experience the most rudimentary of elements—stone, water and dirt. The shift to the outdoors brings a transformation of more than light and shadow. It changes how we see our day. How we view our fellow man. It changes how we experience...life.

That’s the ideal, sure. But not everyone has access to a little patch of heaven.

With hydroponics, it makes no difference. Some will need to grow food indoors. Surrounded by man-made walls, poor lighting and dry air, growers can summon nature with a water pump, basic knowledge and organic nutrients. Some simply have no other option, and there doesn’t need to be.

The science of hydroponics has shattered limitations on growing food to feed our families. We can do it—wherever or whenever, even however.

And as for the structure. There are six basic designs of hydroponic systems: Wick Systems, Deep Water Culture (DWC), Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain), Aeroponics and Drip Systems. Hydroponic growers are known for creative approaches—hybrids are appreciated for both form and function.

So how to choose the system?

Decide which plants will call your garden home. Don’t limit yourself. Challenge yourself. The system will need to handle plants at full size—so keep that in mind. Plant requirements—plant’s size, root size, oxygen and water—should also be considered. And figure out your available space. Never a deal breaker…but a factor, nevertheless.   

One of the first elements to address—the most critical to get right—is the water pump. This is the engine that will dictate the fate of your hydroponics garden. Get it right—pick the correct pump for the job—and that’s half the battle. Most hydroponics use a submersible pump to pump the water from the reservoir to the growing chamber for the plants. So if your pump fails, your plants can die off in hours. Hours.

OASE boasts a variety of pumps that can address the challenge—from our complete line of fountain pumps to the AquaMax Eco Classic or the AquaMax Eco Premium. Looking for a solids-handling pump to work with a flow-through filter? A BioTec Screenmatic or AquaMax Eco Premium Pump can do the job.

The most laborious part of the hydroponics process is the management of PH and nutrient levels. It’s a daily job. But it does allow for more control of elements that affect your plants—so try to look at the glass half-full.

Besides being hip and healthy and a definite conversation starter, what are the advantages of hydroponics? Some are obvious. This method of growing crops is actually better for the environment—it reduces waste and pollution from soil runoff.

A hydroponic garden enjoys faster plant growth, and production will also increase—more than the same plant would experience in soil. Why? Because plants don’t need to work as hard to absorb needed nutrients.

Hydroponics does not require a farmer or a tractor or living off-grid. The concept does not lie in the past nor has it been extracted from a sci-fi novel. It’s very doable. No green thumb required—hydroponics has gone mainstream.

So begin with research. Gather information. Learn what is possible, what to buy and how best to assemble. There are questions to ask and answers to garner. You’ll figure it out.