What comes to your mind when someone says they are growing herbs at home or that they have their own herb garden? Usually, the picture that flashes in your head is that of someone tilling the soil in their backyard. While that image is clearly accurate, “growing plants” these days doesn’t always mean using soil to plant greens and other food items.
Growing plants withoutthe aid of soil are what hydroponics is all about. If the soil is not used then how are plants grown using this process? Any guide that wishes to teach beginners about a particular subject should start off with the history then move on to the basics.
A Short History of Hydroponics
While the term has its origins in the 20thcentury, English naturalist John Woodward published a study on his water culture experiment with spearmint in the 17thcentury. However, it took until the 19thcentury to develop the technique of cultivation without the use of soil.
A solution culture technique was developed in the 1920s by William Frederick Gericke of the University of California at Berkeley. His work served as the inspiration for the further development of the method in the 1930s and 1940s. It was in 1938 that a complete hydroponic nutrient solution was developed by plant nutritionists Dennis R. Hoagland and Daniel I. Arnon of the University of California.
Hydroponics was put into use during World War II as a way to provide food for soldiers. In addition, NASA is looking at the method as a way to keep astronauts fed during long space trips, including the planned voyage to Mars.
The Basics of Hydroponics
From the name of the process itself you can tell that water is involved (hydro). Although the method now involves water rather than soil, nutrients are still needed by the plant in order to grow. Taking all of that into account, hydroponics can then be better defined as a method of growing plants that involve nutrients mixed in water.
There are different techniques for planting in this manner and they can be categorized into the following:
- Solution culture – where the solution is only for the roots
- Medium culture – involves plants put in a container with a solid medium where it can be either irrigated from the sub or top level
How does it work?
As mentioned, there are different techniques for growing plants in a hydroponic manner. One technique can be likened to a conveyor belt in that it lets nutrients trickle past the roots of plants. That technique is called the Nutrient Film Technique and belongs to the Solution Culture category.
Another type of hydroponic planting is called the ebb and flow system. It’s a complex method but the basics are these: water infused with nutrients is flooded to the medium then drained into a reservoir. As you’ve probably guessed, this method belongs to the Medium Culture category.
Where can hydroponics be applied?
Based on all this information so far, one can surmise that hydroponics can be a way of growing plants at home, especially by those who live in apartments where access to a backyard is not always available. As mentioned earlier, even NASA is looking into hydroponics as a way to provide food for astronauts for the mission to land humans on Mars.
So if a homeowner can take advantage of hydroponic techniques to grow food for the family and scientists at NASA are looking to feed astronauts using such a method, it makes sense for commercial growers to take advantage of it as well.
Since they need all the help possible, there are companies like Agron that provide them with a huge catalog of products that enable them to run hydroponic facilities with ease. You can view Agron for more information on what they can do and provide. Growers need all the best lighting, containers, and fertilizers for a successful harvest and companies like Agron have the inventory to ensure that happens.
Growing Plants Hydroponically
Knowing how plants are grown using hydroponics often leads to the question of why. After all, many farmers still make use of the land. There are various answers that can be given to the question of why should growers plant using the hydroponic method, but the most common are these:
- It produces bigger yields. A hydroponically grown plant receives a lot more attention than one grown in the field. It is guaranteed to get the nutrients it needs in order to survive and grow.
- It doesn’t require soil. This can be of advantage to those who have backyards but the soil is of poor quality. It also benefits apartment dwellers who want to grow their own food.
- It saves on water. Water is stored in a reservoir to prevent it from evaporating. Also, plants are only given the nutrients they need.
Hydroponics has a lot to offer everyone. It can be an alternate form of growing for commercial food producers and it can also be a way for domestic producers to make their own food.