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Beginner's farmer training on Hydroponic farming

What is hydroponics?

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in a soilless solution. Because the method is called hydroponics and “hydro” means water, most people think the soilless solution is water. Of course, it can be water, but it doesn’t have to be. Hydroponics can be any nutrient solution or inert growing medium such as perlite and sand — basically anything other than traditional potting mixes or soil.

What do I need to get started?

You’ll need a hydroponics system, hydroponic nutrients, an inert hydroponics medium, a light source, time and plants.

What is a hydroponics system?

Hydroponics systems are various structures (e.g., towers, trays, A-frames) that hold water or other inert media and provide places to grow plants. Hydroponics systems fall into two basic categories: a solution (liquid) culture and an aggregate culture. In a solution system, the plant roots grow directly into a nutrient-filled solution. In an aggregate system, such as gravel, sand, or small clay pellets, the roots grow into the medium. In each method, the system supplies the three essential ingredients plant roots need to grow: water/moisture, nutrients and oxygen.

 

Different types of systems are available to meet individual comfort levels in growing plants hydroponically. These include drip, ebb and flow, nutrient film technique (seen at right), water culture, aeroponics and wick.

Where do I get a hydroponics system?

Systems (think kits for home growing) are available from a variety of commercial suppliers. Look for a system that fits your needs by doing an Internet search with the key words “hydroponic kits” or “hydroponic systems.” Searches for “kits” may bring up simple systems ideal for newcomers to hydroponics and for home growing. On the other hand, searches for “systems” may tend to find advanced or commercial systems more suitable for large-scale growers.

Can I build my own?

If you are handy, you can definitely design and build your own system. Several sites offer lists of free hydroponics system designs. An advantage to building your own system is that you can customize the design to fit your space and the kinds of plants you want to grow.