This year’s crop of fruits and vegetables does not have to depend only on the vagaries of the weather. Especially various greenhouse beauties (cucumbers, tomatoes or peppers) suffer from excess or lack of sunlight the most. And it’s the same with the watering. However, it is much easier – with the help of hydroponics.
And what is it all about? It’s not as different as it might seem. The difference is mainly in the way plants absorb nutrients. Do you think that fertile soil must always play a major role? Then we will prove you wrong.
Precisely dosed nutrients – that’s hydroponics in a nutshell
Hydroponic cultivation does not take into account the classic substrate at all. On the contrary. The plants must be placed in coconut pulp, which by itself does not contain any minerals or other useful substances. So how do you get them into plant tissues? With the help of special nutrient solutions. This has a number of advantages:
- nutrients can be precisely adapted to specific cultivated species,
- it can be responded immediately to nutritional deficiencies,
- it is assured of a precise supply of nutrition in all circumstances.
It is not necessary to go far for examples of poor nutrition in vegetables. For example, tomatoes respond poorly to low levels of calcium, magnesium and many other elements. However, you do not face similar problems in the optimally set hydroponic solution.
And what exactly is that solution? Basically just water mixed with fertilizer in the right proportions. It is from it that the plants take everything they need to live (and not an extra drop if you do not allow them to).
Why bet on hydroponics
Enough nutrients and water for life? This is what paradise on earth looks like, intended for plants. And just hydroponics will take care of it. It is no wonder that vegetables and fruits grown in this way ripen faster and in greater numbers. Seedlings and the fruits grow better, too. So you get maximum harvest in the minimum time.
But that’s not all. Hydroponics also enhances the resistance of plants, which, together with the environment where you grow fruit and vegetables, helps to minimize pests and diseases. By the way – do you know where most of these potential pests are hidden? Of course in the soil, and hydroponics doesn’t use it at all.
Don’t be dependent on the sun, there is other way
The beginnings of hydroponics may not be difficult at all for your family budget – but with one
exception. And that’s lighting. You can’t rely on the sun (nor should you, if you want your own tasty tomatoes or peppers in large quantities). But there is no need to invest in long-gone fluorescent lamps and discharge lamps (which will later unpleasantly surprise you with lighting bills). LED lighting will be a much better choice.
It is economical, the growing space does not overheat and it is easy to maintain. You can bet on models with a universal light spectrum, as well as on those that allow you to switch the settings designated for growth and flower. So whilst growing herbs or salads, you will have enough with the universal, it will be better to have a slightly better model for fruit ripening.
It will be an investment of hundreds to thousands of crowns, but with a very fast return. After all, the best models can have a warranty of up to 10 years, usually a five-year warranty is provided for LED lighting. You buy it once, and then you just use it undisturbed for a long time.
Aeroponics is an advanced method of growing plants that uses air and water to supply nutrients. This is a cultivation in which the roots of the plants are suspended freely in the air and are constantly sprayed with an aerosol of the nutrient solution. Aeroponic systems create an ideal environment for root formation, which is the basis for fast and healthy plant growth. The method can be used throughout the development cycle and you will achieve excellent results when propagating clones. This is an even faster method than hydroponic cultivation.
Advantages of aeroponic cultivation:
- faster plant growth,
- more massive harvest,
- reduced risk of pest infestation,
- certainty of constant pH in the whole system,
- ideal environment for roots,
- the plant absorbs only as much nutrients as it needs,
- shortening of the vegetative phase – more harvests,
- aeroponics is suitable for rooting clones,
- the plants are not exposed to shock during transplanting,
- a minimum of waste is generated,
- aeroponic systems are easy to operate and maintain.
Disadvantages of aeroponic cultivation:
- a more demanding method suitable for more experienced growers,
- so that the roots do not rot, the amount of nutrient solution and the ambient temperature must be monitored.
The most important prerequisite for successful aeroponic cultivation is the stability of the plant gene pool.
What does the aeroponic system contain?
- Water tank,
- tray with lid and holes for plants,
- jet system,
- growing baskets,
- a water pump.
Before using the system for the first time and before each new planting, it is advisable to let the system run for 24 hours with only water and the addition of peroxide. The system will be cleaned and ready for cultivation.
The water tank is filled with fresh nutrient solution, which must be kept sterile for as long as the system is active. To maintain a clean environment and oxygenation, hydrogen peroxide (0.5 ml per 1 L of water) is added to the solution. The ideal temperature of the nutrient solution is around 20 ° C.
The amount of oxygen in the soil is an important factor in ensuring the successful development of the plant. Oxygen is supplied to the roots by a vertical flow of water, which displaces oxygen from the pore with water and then re-sucks it. In addition, the supply of oxygen contributes to the process of photosynthesis, creating plants with larger leaves, thicker stems and shorter internodes. Conversely, in the absence of oxygen, the growth of roots and the whole plant is limited.
EC and pH maintenance
The biggest challenge for aeroponics is to maintain the correct value of electrical conductivity (EC) and pH of the nutrient solution. If both values are outside the optimal range, fatal damage to the plants can occur.
Types of aeroponic systems
Aeroponics uses three basic systems:
- aeroponic propagators,
- circulating low pressure aeroponics,
- high pressure aeroponics.
Aeroponic propagators are made specifically for clones and can be used to achieve much greater success. They do not use growing mediums and the environment is constantly sterile in them. The clones are inserted into the trough using cloning sleeves. The stems of the clones are hung under a trough inside the chamber, where they are in constant contact with the haze from the nutrient solution. The constant supply of nutrients and the absence of growing medium allow very fast root growth. The clones that grow this way have stronger roots and are more resistant to transplantation shock.
Circulatory low pressure aeroponics
These systems are more affordable and easy to maintain. They use a low-pressure pump, continuously supplying the nutrient solution in the form of water splinters. The clones or plants are placed in a perforated cup, which is hung in a chamber for spraying nutrients. The roots hang in the air, grow towards the chamber and are in constant contact with the nutrient solution. Unused solution flows back into the tank.
High pressure aeroponics
In high-pressure aeroponic systems, water and nutrients are supplied to the plant roots using a high-pressure pump. They are usually used for commercial purposes, thanks to which very valuable harvests can be achieved. They are difficult to maintain for home use and the purchase price is high.
Let the pump run 24/7
Plant roots in aeroponic systems need constant access to water, nutrients and oxygen. Switching off the pump could damage the roots.
Develop the roots according to the substrate to which they will be transplanted
It applies mainly to aeroponic propagators.
Remove plants that will be transplanted into the soil substrate or coconut from the propagator at a root length of 5 to 7 cm. Then let them grow in smaller pots for a few days and then transplant them into larger ones.
Remove the plants that will be transplanted into the aeroponic system from the propagator at a root length of 5 to 7 cm and place them directly in the new system.
When transplanting into a hydroponic system, let the roots grow to a length of approximately 13 cm. Then insert the clone between the two halves of the propagator cube.