This is the first of a series of articles on hydroponic growing tecniques, in this article I am going to introduce you to the advantages (and disadvantages) of hydroponic culture, this type of culture is very useful for those of you that want to grow pesticide-free, sustainable, nutritious fruits, vegetables and herbs indoor (closets, small rooms). Modern food is often polluted by chemicals, hormones and it is often deficient of many essential nutrients like vitamins and mineral salts. Growing plants and herbs that are rich of these essential nutrients is relatively cheap with hydroponics. You can even grow fresh fodder for cattle in order to produce high quality meat , cheese and milk.
My next articles will also cover more complex arguments like homemade fertilizers, greenhouse culture, aeroponics and how to build lighting and irrigation systems. There is quite a market for over-priced equipment and fertilizers so it is important to learn how to build your own in order to save a lot of $$$, this requires only basic skills.
For those of you that aren’t adept at basic horticulture I have included a series of links to books that explain basic information like: how plants grow, how photosynthesis works, why PH is important for plants etc You can find this links at the end of this post, I have also included links for some very important books about hydroponics.
Hydroponic is a type of culture in which all nutrients are supplied to the plant through the irrigation water, with the growing substrate being soilless (mostly inorganic). In open systems the nutrient solution is discarded after it pass through root mass/medium while in closed systems the solution recirculate.
Crops can be grown where no suitable soil exists or where the soil is contaminated with disease.
Labor for tilling, cultivating, fumigating, watering, and other traditional practices are largely eliminated.
Maximum yields are possible, making the system economically feasible in high-density and expensive land areas.
Conservation of water and nutrients, closed systems cause no form of pollution.
Complete control over the growing environment.
More expensive than traditional soil culture.
Require basic skills in various disciplines: electrical, plumbing, chemistry, horticulture.
The plants react very fast to poor nutritious or bad enviromental conditions.
Disease can spread very quickly if proper care is not given.
Not all plant cultivars are suitable for hydroponic culture.
THERE ARE 2 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE STARTING
This culture is very profitable for off-season high value crops, for example basil, cherry tomatoes, peppers and herbs during the winter. If you can sell your harvests to gourmet restaurants and farmer-markets you can recover your growing costs very quickly. You can grow different high quality crops in only 1 square meter using a shelf-like structure or rotary hydroponic systems.
Lighting costs are very high:
Fluorescent tubes, High Intensity Discarge Lamps can be bought at a fair price BUT they are inefficient, consume a lot of electricity and most light bulbs/tubes don’t come in the right light spectrum therefor up to 60% of emitted light is wasted. They contain mercury and HID lamps generate a lot of excess heat; They also require expensive reflectors and ballasts for optimal use. It is important that you use these lamps only for herbs and leaf vegetables if you want to grow tomatoes or other crops that require a lot of light you must build a LED Array with blue and red leds (with 10% yellow/green light).
LUMENS ARE USELESS FOR PLANTS LIGHTING REQUIREMENTS, you need to use PAR WATTS / square meter or microeinsteins. Plants require mostly blue and red photons for photosynthesis, you only need 10% of yellow-green light, most commercial lights are in the yellow green spectrum. There is a lot of bulls*it in horticulture marketing especially regarding grow lights sold at hydroponic shops, most of these lamps are industrial lamps with just a different label.