Gardening Vivian | 31 Mar 2011 02:00 am

Hydroponics Systems

If you are interested to grow your own plants in your home, use hydroponics. Hydroponics is the method of growing plants without soil. It is highly productive, conservative of water and land, and protective of the environment. This requires only basic agricultural skills and is very convenient for us, plant lovers who do not have the luxury of having much backyard space for gardening.

Starting your own hydroponics system at home is not difficult. Just learn the basics – what you need, where to look for it and gather the essentials. What you need to know mainly revolves around the hydroponics system you would want to use and install, a good lighting system, starter cubes, a nutrient solution to feed the plants, and, of course, the seeds. Here is some information to get you started in growing your own plants at home.

First, decide what to plant. Seeds are available in all grow shops and many stores near you. They even have them in some grocery and convenient stores, in plastic packages. You can buy grow kits that include in them seeds to plant in your system and guides with how-to’s and the basics. You can also research about which plants to grow and which of them grow faster in hydroponics systems. Tomatoes and lettuce are the favorites. The following are among the fastest growing hydroponics plants: spinach, with 14 to 20 days; Swiss chard, with six to seven days; turnips, mint and spearmint and most vegetables.

Another thing you should need to know about is starter cubes. Starter cubes are made of an inert material, which is a material that doesn’t provide anything to the plant other than as a support for the plant and its roots. The material retains some water but doesn’t supply any nutrient. In hydroponics, nutrients are supplied through the water. There are basically four kinds of starter cubes: Rockwool, Oasis cubes, Organo-Cubes and “peat pots”. The most commonly used are Rockwool, Organo-Cubes and Oasis cubes. These cubes retain water well but also retain enough air so that the medium doesn’t stay too wet, making them more favored than peat pots because the latter retain too much water and tend to “drown” the plants.

All hydroponic plants require a nutrient solution which is a mix of certain chemical elements to live introduced through the water in the system. This is a mixture essential nutrients that are divided into two categories: macronutrients, or nutrients plants need in large amounts; and micronutrients; nutrients plants need in small amounts. Macronutrients include carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, sulfur, phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Micronutrients include iron, copper, zinc, nickel, manganese, molybdenum, boron, and chlorine. Solutions may vary in strength depending on the type of plants and the stages of growth the plants are in. Most nutrient solutions are sold in mixing parts with a specific formula and instructions for use in the different phases of plant growth.

Your lighting system: Plants need the proper lighting to thrive in your hydroponics system. The lighting should mimic the optimum lighting in the habitat of the plant you would like to grow. The three basic types of lights used in artificial lighting are incandescent, fluorescent, or high intensity discharge lights. Fluorescent lights are affordable and the type that can easily be found in stores. That is why it is also most preferred by home gardeners. The most effective for home growing are high intensity lights because they provide more heat that is what is usually needed for most plants, but they can be expensive. Some plants, though, can require lesser light and heat to grow. You can use incandescent light for these types because incandescent light emit lower heat that is perfect for plants that need indirect or grow under a shade.

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