Is Growing Hydroponic Worth It?
There are many new techniques and tactics to implement in gardening, and one of them is hydroponic gardening.
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This could be a good choice for gardening if your goal is to have quicker plant growth and better plant production. However, a lot of people are hesitant, as it can be quite expensive.
Is growing hydroponic worth it? Yes. Hydroponic gardening is considered cost-effective and worth it, but you have to understand that it requires an initial investment. Once you have it, expect to see quicker plant growth and better plant production than usual soil.
This article will talk more about hydroponics and the equipment associated with this type of gardening. It is also important to know different ways to save with hydroponic gardening, so you make the most out of it.
The Definition of Hydroponics
Before jumping on the bandwagon and spending money, it is essential to be familiarized with hydroponics. This way, you will understand what and where your money is going for the long run.
Hydroponics is a way to grow your plants without soil. It uses a mineral-based nutrient solution to give plants what they need to survive and grow.
Instead of using regular soil, hydroponics generally uses perlite, Rockwool, clay pellets, peat moss, or vermiculite.
The idea behind it is that the plant’s roots come into direct contact with the nutrients necessary for their growth. The plant can focus more on growing and producing fruit rather than expanding the whole root system to reach what it needs.
Benefits of Hydroponics
Hydroponics can have many benefits, including better growth than with regular soils that do not use the system.
It can reach up to 25% quicker growth, and plants in a hydroponics system generally produce up to 30% more than plants in a regular growth medium. Another benefit is that it does not require too much water.
Therefore, you can expect to use less water than your regular garden because of its closed system. Being in a closed system can mean that there will be less evaporation.
If you are the type of person concerned about the environment and climate change, hydroponics is great news for you. This is because it is good for the environment as long as you do not dump water.
It also reduces waste and pollution from the soil runoff, which normally happens in a regular garden setup.
Equipment Involved With Hydroponics
The first thing that you need to know when it comes to hydroponics is how much you will invest in this kind of system. To know that, you must learn all the equipment involved in the system.
The good news is that there are plenty of hydroponic systems that are available in the market. You need to pick one that is suited to your budget. Here’s what you need to install your hydroponic garden successfully.
Different Hydroponic Systems
The first thing is to have a hydroponic system, as this is responsible for holding the water or your other inert medium and providing a place for the plant to grow. A hydroponic system can be categorized into parts: the solution culture, the liquid, and the aggregate culture.
With a solution system, the plant is growing right in your hydroponic solution. In contrast, the aggregate system involves a medium like sand or gravel, and the roots will grow into the medium.
There is plenty for you to choose from depending on your budget, how much you plan to grow, and space you have in your garden.
Here are some of the various hydroponic systems to choose from.
The deepwater culture hydroponic system is most commonly known as the reservoir method. It is considered one of the easiest methods for growing your plants hydroponically and the best choice for most beginners.
Using this system, the roots are suspended in the nutrient solution, and an aquarium air pump provides the oxygen to the nutrient solution to keep the plant roots from drowning.
The best part of this system is that there are no parts that can clog, but you must make sure that light does not get into the system’s closed part. If light gets in, serious issues like algae buildup can arise, which is a no-no for growing.
If you are looking for a deepwater culture hydronic system, check this one out from Amazon. This is perfect for beginners and intermediate growers, as it takes the hassle out of building your very own system. It can also save you hours. It has room for 36 plants and is known to be perfect for leafy greens.
Nutrient Film Technique
Another hydroponic system is the nutrient film technique, most commonly known as NFT. It is a system that has a continuous flow of nutrient solution that runs over the root of your plants.
This kind of system is more efficient because the plant absorbs more oxygen from the air than the nutrient solution. As a result, you will get a faster rate when it comes to growing your plants.
If you look at Amazon, you can find this great NFT system that can accommodate new crops. Just be mindful that this product does not come with the reservoir shown in the picture.
From the name itself, you can pretty much determine the technique for this kind of hydroponic gardening. In the aeroponics method, the roots are suspended in the air and misted with the nutrient solution.
You can use a fine spray nozzle or a pond fogger for the misting procedure. The AeroGarden is an aeroponic system that is a great starting point for gardeners who are new to hydroponic gardening.
Here is an example of an AeroGarden that can be found on Amazon. This one falls in the middle of AeroGarden’s realm as far as size goes. You can have everything you need, so you won’t require plants or any nutrient solution if you choose this method.
The wicking method is associated with a material like cotton, and your growth medium surrounds it. The end of the material that is absent in the growth medium is placed in the nutrient solution.
So, the solution is wicked to the root of your plants—hence, the method’s name. This is considered one of the easiest hydroponic systems, and it saves you a ton of money because it is also one of the low-cost methods.
The only disadvantage is that this is more of a do-it-yourself kind of setup. You also need your wicking materials as well as pots and a medium. You can get a 50-foot wicking cord on Amazon for the price of a couple of drinks.
Ebb and Flow
In terms of the ebb and flow method, this is mostly known as the flood and drain system in hydroponic gardening. Using this method, you flood the whole area where you are growing your plants with the nutrient solution at different intervals.
Slowly, the nutrient solution drains back into your reservoir. This process happens all over again and is regulated by a timer hooked to a pump.
If you are looking for a good ebb and flow system on Amazon, you can try this one, as it has room for 90 plants in total. You will also notice that this system on Amazon calls itself a deep water culture system. T
his is because the ebb and flow and deep water culture are very similar methods. The only difference is that the ebb and flow system runs on intervals while the other does not.
When it comes to hydroponic nutrients, your nutrient solution should consist of primary, secondary, and micronutrients designed for hydroponics. These nutrients are not the same as those that usually can be found in regular fertilizer for plants growing mostly in soil.
Meanwhile, some of the nutrients you might see in most hydroponic solutions are calcium, nitrate, nitrogen, potash, phosphorus acid, boron, zinc, iron, and magnesium.
If you are looking for a complete set of hydroponic nutrients, you should check out this complete pack of nutrients that will make your hydroponic solution maximize your system’s growth potential.
This pack of three includes the primary, secondary, and micronutrients that are mainly required in the hydroponics system.
The inert medium is the place for your plants to grow properly. Inerts are material that does not break down easily, which helps supply the nutrients to your plants.
The best growing medium for you will always depend on the system you consider, and any of them should work fine with drip and NFT systems. Aeroponic and deepwater culture systems do not use medium, and the ebb and flow systems do best with mediums that do not float.
If you are considering growing your plants hydroponically outside, you do not need light. However, if the system is inside, you might need a light source to provide one of the necessary ingredients for the growth of your plants.
Some of the most popular light choices are metal halide, high-pressure sodium bulbs, LEDs, high-output fluorescents, and some compact fluorescents.
The good thing about hydroponic gardening is that you can grow just about anything you want, but the different types of plants do better in a solution system. Also, it is worth mentioning that others are better suited for an aggregate system as well.
Miscellaneous Costs of Hydroponic Gardening
Another consideration you should be looking into is the miscellaneous costs of running hydroponic gardening. The first thing to think about is electricity, as most hydroponic systems run on electricity.
Always consider your electrical costs; the average cost of electricity in the United States is 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. What you grow will determine how much you have to use your lights, but you can expect to run your lights for at least 6 to 8 hours a day.
Because the absence of power for a few hours will dry and kill your plants, most growers use a generator.
A very small miscellaneous cost can be expensive compared to the actual amount for test strips or a digital pen to check your water’s potential hydrogen or pH level.
You also need a testing pen to check the electrical conductivity or the EC levels. These kinds of levels in your nutrient solution can make or break your hydroponic garden.
Ways to Save With Hydroponic Gardening
Hydroponic gardening is not a cheap method of growing your plants. For this reason, many people look for ideas on how to save for the long run. If you want to jump into hydroponic gardening, cost will always be an issue, but it’s not the end of the road. You can still save some money.
Pick the Best System
The first tip is to figure out which system gives you the best for your money. Buy the system that fits your budget; start small and then try to expand later on. While hydroponic gardening kits may be available online, you can always make one for yourself if you are trying to save money.
Choose one that is less technical if you decide to make a hydroponic system from scratch.
Deepwater culture setup, NFT, and wicking are some of the less complicated systems that you could put together by yourself. You should see quicker production and growth with a hydroponic system, as well as less water.
As a result, you will be saving money with more production and less water.
Recycling Your Water
Learn how to recycle your water properly, as this can cut down greatly on how much water you use in this kind of gardening.
You can’t just reuse your water without disinfecting it first, as if you do not disinfect the water, you will run the risk of infecting your plants with more bacteria or viruses that the water has picked up.
One method to try is pasteurization. It is the process of using a heat source to rapidly heat your water, then cool it to kill all the bacteria and viruses. Another method is ozonation.
With this method, the water is actually infused with ozone, which is a natural gas found in the ozone layer. It is created by UV radiation from the sun. In your garden, an ozone generator creates ozone that is used to disinfect the water.
The last method you can try is UV disinfection. It uses high-pressure UV lamps to destroy all the bacteria and viruses in the water. The UV rays will zap the water as it passes through a radiation chamber.
If there is no way you can spend the extra money on one of the disinfecting systems, you can always recycle your water by using it to water your other plants.
Yes, recycling can cost you a bit at first, but once you can cycle your water for long periods of time, it will make a difference.
Save on Groceries
Another way to save with hydroponic gardening is by growing your own herbs and vegetables. You don’t have to buy anything when it comes to grocery shopping.
Ideally, you will be able to do your hydroponic gardening indoors, which means you will be able to pay out-of-season prices for your produce at some stores.
Because you are probably limited on space, your best bet is to make a list of the most expensive vegetables, fruits, or herbs you like and then put those on your priority list of what to grow hydroponically.
This means that hydroponic gardening is somehow a cost-effective kind of gardening. You just need to have the initial money to get your system up and running.
This is a good way to save money, as you can grow your own produce, and in the long run, you can even run your own business selling different fruits, vegetables, or herbs.
This just proves that hydroponics really has great potential, and the market is expected to expand dramatically in the coming years. It was valued at USD 23.94 billion in 2018, and it is forecast to account for a CAGR of 6.8% from 2019-2024.
Overall, hydroponic gardening is something that you should check out once you have the means. There are downsides to it, just like with any other thing in life, but you can overcome most of them with proper planning and experience.
Considering the pros, it can give you, hydroponic is definitely worth trying, so give it a go if you can. Just make sure to familiarize yourself with all the things mentioned above.