What is a Hydroponic Greenhouse?

J.M. Densing
J.M. Densing
Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

A hydroponic greenhouse is a structure in which the plants are grown without using any soil; nutrient-enriched water is used instead. Growing plants in this manner is conducive to eliminating many common garden pests. When vegetables are grown using hydroponic systems, they usually yield larger crops than when they are planted in soil; the greenhouse environment also allows for an extended growing season. Nutrients used in a hydroponic greenhouse need to be monitored and maintained at appropriate levels to ensure optimal results. Some types of hydroponic techniques include utilizing gravel to support root systems and the reservoir method.

Growing plants in a hydroponic greenhouse is generally an effective, environmentally friendly way to enjoy year-round gardening. Hydroponic greenhouses are used by home gardeners and for commercial production; popular plant choices include vegetables, herbs, and flowering plants. The greenhouse environment can be ideal for hydroponic techniques because the level of control in this setting is much greater than in outdoor gardening. It is possible to use separate nutrient solutions for different plants and to closely regulate temperature and light exposure to provide ideal growing conditions for each plant. Since no soil is used, common garden problems, such as various bugs, fungi, lack of nutrients and weeds, are eliminated.

Vegetables are a popular plant choice for a hydroponic greenhouse, and enthusiasts say that those grown in this environment are often larger and tastier. Each plant typically produces a much greater crop yield when grown with hydroponic techniques. One reason is that the plants grow faster because the dissolved nutrients are more easily absorbed with a hydroponic system than standard soil gardening. Planting in a hydroponic greenhouse environment also allows an extended growing season because the environment is controlled and independent of the weather. A drawback is that gardening using hydroponic techniques can be very time consuming and requires more advanced knowledge to be successful.

The nutrient solution used in a hydroponic greenhouse can be formulated to meet the needs of each plant. Nutrients usually included are nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur along with trace amounts of other minerals. The concentrations of the nutrients can vary depending on the crop, and the levels should be monitored on a regular basis. Hydroponic gardeners usually test the water with PH strips and add more nutrient solution when necessary.

The plants in a hydroponic greenhouse need other forms of support since they are grown without soil; a substrate like gravel that allows water and air to easily pass through can be used to support the roots. Another method is supporting the plant from above while the roots are suspended in nutrient-enriched water. A plant left in contact with the water constantly is the reservoir method. Utilizing another technique, the roots of the plant are bathed, or flooded, in nutrient enriched water up to several times a day, and then the water is drained and recycled.

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