We are going to be building up our articles about hydroponics and all the things you need to know about, like hydroponics for beginners! Keep an eye out for more in this series.
What is hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. Instead of soil, the plants can be grown in a nutrient-rich water solution that provides all the necessary minerals and nutrients for the plants to grow or a natural product like coir (coconut husk) like we use.
In hydroponics, the plants are either supported by a water-absorbent material, such as coconut coir, or they are suspended directly in the nutrient solution. The water is typically recirculated to conserve resources and minimize waste, and the plants can either be under artificial lights or outside in direct sunlight.
Under lights growing allows for precise control over plant nutrition, water, and environmental conditions, and can be used to grow plants in a variety of settings, including indoors, small apartments and inner city areas, and regions with poor soil quality.
Benefits of growing hydroponically
Some of the benefits of hydroponic farming include the ability to grow produce year-round, reduced water usage compared to traditional agriculture, and the ability to grow crops in areas with limited space.
Another advantage of hydroponics is that it can allow for precise control over the growing conditions, such as temperature, light, and nutrient levels. This can lead to faster growth and higher yields compared to traditional soil-based gardening.
What do I need to grow hydroponically?
Sometimes people may be scared off at the thought of growing hydroponically, and that you will need extensive systems to grow. However, to set up a basic hydroponic system, you only need a few items:
- Planters: A planter or pot to hold the plants and nutrient-rich water solution.
- Growing medium: A growing medium to support the plant roots. Common options include coconut coir which is what we use ourselves.
- Nutrient Solution: A nutrient solution to provide the essential nutrients that the plants need to grow. You can purchase pre-mixed nutrient solutions easily at our online store
- Water: Water to fill the system and create the nutrient solution.
- pH Meter: A pH meter to monitor the acidity level of the nutrient solution. Most hydroponic plants grow best with a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5.
- EC meter: An EC (Electrical Conductivity) meter measures the concentration of dissolved salts in the nutrient solution. This measurement is used to determine the strength of the nutrient solution, which is important for plant growth and health.
- Light Source: A light source to provide the necessary light for plant growth. If growing indoors, you will need grow lights to mimic sunlight.
- Plants: Plants that are suitable for hydroponic growing. Lettuce, spinach, herbs, and strawberries are popular choices for beginners.
With these basic components, you can set up a simple hydroponic system and start growing your own plants without soil.
Automated hydroponic systems
The other option is to choose a fully automated system such as an Eco Farm which does most of the hard work for you. Here are a few benefits of using automated hydroponic systems:
- Consistent plant growth: Automated hydroponic systems like the Eco Farm provide precise control over many environmental conditions, such as water and nutrient levels. This leads to more consistent plant growth and improved yields.
- Increased efficiency: Automated systems can either be programmed or turned on to perform tasks such as nutrient dosing and irrigation on a set schedule, which reduces the amount of manual labour required. This increased efficiency allows growers to save time and hassle of remembering to do these tasks.
- Reduced labour costs: Automated hydroponic systems can significantly reduce labour costs by reducing the need for manual plant care and maintenance. With an Eco Farm, you simply need to replace the water and nutrient every few weeks, with closer monitoring in hotter weather. You can also easily check EC and pH levels on the Eco Farm, then adjust if needed.
Overall, automated hydroponic systems like the Eco Farm offer a more efficient and effective way to grow plants with less manual labour, greater precision, and higher yields.
Hydroponic growing medium - coconut coir
Finally, another advantage of growing hydroponically are the benefits of not growing in soil. At Verti Gro Australia, we use coconut coir, which is made from the fibrous husk of coconuts. There are so many benefits to this and one is that it’s super sustainable and cheaper to use, as it can be reused! Other benefits include:
- Consistent quality: Coir is a homogeneous substrate, which means that it has consistent physical and chemical properties, so every block of coir is the same substance making it super consistent to use. This makes it easier to control the growing conditions.
- Improved water retention: Coir has excellent water retention properties as it can hold more water than soil. Your plants won’t dry out and you cannot overwater coir.
- Higher air-filled porosity: Coir has a higher air-filled porosity than soil, which means that it has more open space for air to circulate around the roots. This can improve oxygen availability to the roots, leading to healthier plants.
- Free of pathogens and weed seeds: Coir is a sterile substrate, which means that it is free of pathogens and weed seeds. This can help prevent the spread of plant diseases and reduce the need for chemical treatments. You’re not going to get the same soil-borne pests and diseases from coir.
- Sustainable: Coir is a renewable resource, and its use in horticulture can help reduce the environmental impact of soil-based growing systems. You can reuse it, and it’s from a completely sustainable source. It is a byproduct of the coconut industry and is considered an eco-friendly alternative to other substrates that are not renewable, such as peat moss.
- Biodegradable: coir is also biodegradable, so it will naturally break down over time, unlike some other substrates that can take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose. This means that it can be safely disposed of or recycled at the end of its useful life. Coconut fibres were considered waste and a byproduct of the coconut industry, this is now using the fibres and reducing waste.
Hydroponics is great for everyone, from beginners to serious growers. If you have any questions or an idea for an article, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us!