Hydroponics for the home
Hydroponics for the home – By Noucetta Kehdi – GHE
Why would anyone use hydroponics ? What are its applications in real life ? And what about home hydroponics ? How could it be useful in the household ?
Hydroponics continues to trigger doubt, questions, or enthusiasm, depending on the public you are addressing. Fortunately we are far from the total skepticism and disapproval we used to face only 15 years ago. Indeed our technology has gained a lot of press during the last few years, especially in response to the economical and ecological issues that have been appearing worldwide. But in times of crises new perspectives arise, and hydroponics is one of them, bringing answers and solutions in more fields than one might suspect. Commercial large and small scale food production, decorative plant propagation and production, vegetal walls and roofs for decoration, insulation, or food production, studies and scientific research at the highest levels, science classes at school, and of course, plants at home.
Yes, hydroponics at home. This might sound strange but there are many applications for hydroponics at home, all of them instructive and productive at once. Let’s concentrate on the 3 most popular – and useful ones – the herb gardens, home food production, and aquaponics.
At home, you can grow any kind of hydroponic garden. Small one-pot units to larger multi-pot ones, depending on your project and the space you have at your disposal. What’s important to know, is that if you grow indoors, especially in the smallest spaces, this is your most efficient way to grow a plant. And when you grow at home, you control the quality of your production.
Also, hydroponics at home offers people a new relationship with plants. The first reflex is usually of happy surprise when you see the plant growing so fast, and so healthy. There is a definitive difference compared to soil grown plants! And then surprise converts into total passion when you taste your first tomato or smell the excellent aroma of your basil when cooking your pesto. Not to talk about the yields you get.
With hydroponics at home, children learn about plants and the way they live. The rapidity with which plants grow brings a new dynamics to the process, creating active interaction and understanding of the plant’s world. Depending on the growing system you choose (“hydro” when the roots are covered with clay pebbles, or “aero” when the plants are hanging bare roots in the pots), they can watch the root-zone and follow the plant growing from day to day. (But please, if you did hydroponics, do not expose the roots too often to light, this would be harmful to them). In times of flowering, you can show them how to pollinate a strawberry flower or a vanilla orchid. And of course, the best part is when you pick and taste the family’s first crops with them!
If you have a small space and would like to grow your own kitchen herbs, there is nothing as dependable as a small one-pot hydroponics unit. They usually come in different models, for 1 to 5 plants, depending on the size of the plant you’d like to grow. We have grown a large variety of herbs in our AquaFarms over the years, modifying their composition along with the different cuisines we discovered during our trips abroad. And you can also grow your own herb tea garden, pick your herbs when you want, and use them fresh or dry at your convenience. In those same systems you can grow small trees or climbing vines for years. We do so at home with a vanilla from Madagascar, and pick our own pods each year for our vanilla home production.
You can also choose systems that are a little bigger to grow some of your own greens and vegetable. If you have a spare space at home or on your balcony in season, you can grow a few lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries, maybe parsley, basil, or a mint, just for the pleasure of producing your own food.
For children and adults alike, I love aquaponics for homes. This is a way to grow plants and fish in complete synergy, the plants feeding on the fish dejections, and the fish filtering the water for the plants. Here also you can grow a large variety of plants, herbs, or decorative plants. Aquaponics, to my opinion, is a great way to do hydroponics at home in the most playful and instructive way, while being productive if you want to add food production to it.
How does it work and how to star?
Hydroponics is a way to grow plants out of soil, most often in a plastic container, feeding them with an exhaustive, high quality mix of mineral salts, closely adapted to their life-cycle and their needs. It is a closed circuit, highly dynamic irrigation system, with a high level of dissolved oxygen in the nutritive solution.
Plants are grown within a chamber filled with clay pebbles. The growing chamber is suspended above a reservoir filled with nutrient-enriched water. An air pump drives the nutrient solution up through the “pumping column”, to the drip-ring, where it then drips down through clay pebbles. This infuses the nutrient with oxygen and constantly bathes the roots, stimulating the plant to grow like you have never seen before. (http://gb.eurohydro.com/waterfarm.html)
To start hydroponics, keep it simple and economical. Usually begin with a small module, for example in the AquaFarm line. These pots are designed to grow between 1 and 5 plants depending on the plant’s size of course. The roots are surrounded with clay pebbles, which serve as a support and a root protector. These systems can tolerate a few mistakes from beginners without too much stressing the plants. Generally they include simple assembly instructions and an information leaflet to guide you through your first steps.
There also are beginner’s hydroponics kits with enough nutrients to last at least one crop, and a detailed feeding chart for an entire life cycle. Choose the best quality nutrition, it is a condition for vigorous and healthy plants. If you have a well-exposed window where your plant gets lots of light, you are fine. But you may need a growing lamp if your growing area is too dark, or your warm season too short. Urban garden stores will be happy to help you.
Yes, but is it difficult, you might ask? Hydroponics may sound difficult. It is new and indeed sounds strange: no soil, only water, special plant foods, checking pH and EC levels, etc. But it is not. There are a few simple parameters to keep in mind. For more in-depth information read page 44-49 in our catalog (download from our website www.eurohydro.com), and the most recent and complete book on the subject “Hydroponics for Everybody” by William Texier. Published by Mama Editions. It is available in French, English, German, Spanish, Check, Russian, and will be soon available in Dutch and Italian. (http://www.mamaeditions.net/catalogue.html)
Today the interest for hydroponics is increasing, and the information about its applications is spreading at high speed. As large and small commercial hydroponics projects are multiplying in cities and countries all over the world, they are also being introduced in the most modern home architectures. Very soon it will become common to see small hydroponic units in our apartments, herb gardens in our kitchens and veggies growing in our living rooms.