About Hydroponics and Aquaponics
Overview of Hydroponics and Aquaponics
As the world continues to evolve with advancements in health, science and technology, the gardening world is rapidly embracing hydroponics and aquaponics. Why? Because these growing techniques can be less problematic and yield better results when compared to conventional soil gardening. Let’s look at each of these growing methods and discover how you may benefit from using hydroponics and aquaponics.
What is Hydroponics?
The word origin of hydroponics comes from the Greek words for water (“hudor”) and labor (“ponos”). Thus, the literal definition of hydroponics is “water working” or “water labor.”
Broadly speaking, hydroponics is the method of growing plants by suspending the roots in oxygenated water instead of in soil. Nutrients are added to the water, creating the nutrient solution. This nutrient solution contains known quantities of nutrients, and can be adjusted as needed when conditions change.
Grow media – such as clay pellets, coconut fiber, and growstones – are used to support, aerate and retain the nutrient solution in the root zone. Since growing plants typically use soil as a medium, the most notable change to hydroponic growing is the absence of any soil.
History of Hydroponics
Although hydroponic growing may seem like a new concept, it is not. Many believe the first use of hydroponic principles were employed in the beautiful vertical terraces of The Hanging Gardens of Babylon (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) circa 600 BC. Later, during the 10th and 11th centuries, Aztecs used hydroponic methods to convert marshy wetlands into arable farmland, helping to feed their enormous population despite the less than ideal soil growing condition.
In the early 20th century, Dr. William Frederick, an academic at University of Berkley, pioneered research in hydroponic growing, and coined the term “hydroponics.” Gericke proved to his skeptical colleagues that plants could, in fact, grow effectively in solutions of nutrients and water, and without the need for soil.
Today, hydroponics is a widely respected and often preferred method used to cultivate plants. Commercial farmers, individual gardeners, apartment dwellers, restaurateurs, and even policy makers and hunger advocates are excited by the advances in hydroponics and what soilless growing offers us in the 21st century.
How to Grow Plants using Hydroponics
Hydroponics typically uses a growing medium to support and oxygenate plants at their root level. Nutrients are mixed with water (creating the nutrient solution) and delivered directly to the roots. This allows for plants to take in food with ease, and results more ideal growing conditions compared to problematic soil gardening. Since it is important to always maintain adequate pH levels, pH adjusters can be added to the nutrient solution when needed. While hydroponic growing may sound complicated, it is actually quite easy once you have your system in place.
There are various methods (or systems) in which to grow plants hydroponically. Each hydroponic system delivers water, nutrients, and oxygen differently, and it is at the discretion of the grower to decide which system to employ.
Passive hydroponic systems rely on the grow medium or a wick to bring nutrients and moisture to the roots of a plant, while active hydroponic systems moves the nutrient solution within the system, usually with the help of a pump.
Recovery systems recirculate water and nutrients back into the system once used, whereas non-recovery systems use water and nutrients only one time…and then are discarded.
Buying a Hydroponics System Online
Amazon has many fabulous kits, supplies, and hydroponic systems available to get you started. Tepid hydroponic beginners may find a simple wicking herb garden is all they want to try, while other novices may want to try a more productive system – such as the Aerogarden. There are also some easy-to-use Deep Water Culture, Drip, and Ebb and Flow systems to choose from.
More experienced or adventuresome hydroponic growers have a wider range of choices. Amazon has numerous DWC, Drip, Ebb and Flow, and NFT options, as well as some interesting Aeroponic systems. Get creative and combine different systems into one, or keep the set-up as is. The world is your oyster with hydroponics, so get started today!
What is Aquaponics?
The integrated system of aquaponics combines the aquaculture element of raising fish with the hydroponics element of growing plants in water instead of soil. Like hydroponics, grow media and pumps are used. But instead of relying on the man-made nutrients used in hydroponics, aquaponics uses organic fish waste to supply the nutrients for growing plants. Fish consume inexpensive fish food, which is digested to become waste, then this waste is pumped into the grow beds, supplying the nutrients necessary for plant health. Plants naturally help to clean water in aquarium tanks, so the symbiotic environment of aquaponics requires less cleaning and overall maintenance.
Aquaponics kits easily convert an aquarium into a living ecosystem, where plants and fish symbiotically co-exist. If you already have an aquarium…great! Simply buy an aquaponics kit and retrofit to your existing set-up. Don’t have an aquarium? You can purchase one on Amazon, then buy an aquaponics kit separately. Some aquaponics kits come complete with an aquarium tank and all the necessary components to get you started. Aquaponics systems can be large and elaborate or small and simplistic, so choose a size which will work best for you.
What can you Grow using Hydroponics and Aquaponics?
Nearly any plant can be grown using hydroponics or aquaponics. With that said, we recommend that you avoid growing fungi, squash, zucchini, corn, zucchini, and vining plants, as well as vegetables which grow beneath the soil (carrots, onions, parsnips, leeks, yams, radishes, and potatoes). While these crops can be grown hydroponically or aquaponically, it will require more attention and skill to cultivate them effectively.
Among the most popular hydroponic and aquaponic plants to grow include:
- Herbs: basil, parsley, sage, mint, chives, anise, dill, thyme, catnip, tarragon, chamomile, lavender, cilantro, oregano, rosemary, coriander, fennel, cannabis
- Vegetables: tomatoes, radish, peas, artichokes, celery, brussels sprouts, peppers, cabbage, spinach, cauliflower, beans, lettuce, cucumbers, asparagus, broccoli
- Fruits: strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, cantaloupes, blackberries, raspberries
- Flowers: daisies, roses, petunia, zinnia, snapdragon, begonias, dahlias, iris, orchids
- Ornamentals: impatiens, palm trees, ficus, African violets, monster, caladiums
And the list goes on…