What is Hydroponic Gardening?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Hydroponic gardening is an alternative to the more traditional process of growing plants in soil. Utilizing systems that cultivate plants by using water infused with nutrients, this form of gardening is said to speed up the production of produce significantly, both by allowing fruits and vegetables to mature quickly and also due to the increased yield per plant. While the concept met with some degree of suspicion in years past, hydroponic farming is well respected today.

Hydroponic gardens may include tomatoes.
Hydroponic gardens may include tomatoes.

The genius of hydroponics is the ability to directly nourish the root system quickly and often more completely than is possible with soil gardening. The water ran through various types of hydroponic systems is infused with the right balance of nutrients to stimulate rapid growth. At the same time, the ability to be exposed to more oxygen helps the root system absorb those nutrients more efficiently. This helps the plants to mature quickly and bear fruit at a rate faster than more traditional methods.

Along with producing fruits and vegetables at an accelerated rate, hydroponic gardening is also kind to the environment. The water used to feed nutrients to root systems can constantly be recycled. This means it is possible to use considerably less water to maintain a hydroponic garden. Because soil is not present, there are no concerns about erosion. The yield is also relatively free of pesticides and other chemicals, since they are not needed to control pests or protect the plants from animals that normally could damage a soil garden.

There are several different models or systems used with hydroponic gardening. The wick system is simple and relatively easy to set up. Nutrients are transferred from a reservoir of water using a simple candlewick that comes in contact with the root system of each plant. While not the most efficient process, this approach is often a good option for a home garden where the desire is to produce a few hydroponic tomatoes and similar fruits and vegetables. However, this method is rarely if ever used for large farms.

The nutrient film technique, or NFT, makes use of a pump to move nutrient rich water into tubes where the root systems reside. The slow nutrient drip can effectively feed the roots around the clock while still allowing the roots to receive an equitable amount of oxygen. There is no growing medium present to help hold moisture near the roots, so maintaining a constant flow of water is necessary; even short interruptions may allow the roots to dry out and wither.

A continuous drip system is another option with hydroponic gardening. Like the NFT system, a continuous drip nourishes the roots around the clock. What is different with this system is it is possible to adjust the amount of water received by each plant in the network. Drip trays under the plants can capture the water and run it back through the system to pick up more nutrients and be reused to feed the roots.

These and other hydroponic gardening options make it possible to grow vegetables and other plants at a rapid pace without the need for a large section of ground for planting. Hydroponics can be employed in multiple story gardens and set up in just about any environment. As a means of producing food for a planet with an ever-increasing population, hydroponic gardening holds a great deal of promise for the future.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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